World production and consumption of nuclear power has increased steadily from its commercial start in 1956 but fell as natural gas and renewable capacity increased, and nuclear plants were decommissioned.
The growth of nuclear power production was exponential in the first ten years after its commercial introduction in 1956, as would be expected for a new energy source. It then slowed down progressively to 10.9% a year by 1990, and has continued downwards to 1.8% a year in 2005. It has been experiencing negative growth since 2006 due to competition from renewable energy sources and natural gas.
This would be a normal trend as the production base increases in size from zero at the start to that of a mainstream energy source. However, the annualised growth of nuclear power, has been lower than that of natural gas for two reasons. The extraordinary expansion of the Chinese economy in the last five years has necessitated an increase in primary energy consumption. Such a rapid expansion as has occurred in China required a very fast ramp up in energy supply and this could only come from accelerated production of China’s vast coal reserves, to the extent that in five years the relatively small number of state-owned Chinese coal producers has overtaken the international coal giants base in the US and Australia. China did not have the nuclear base and the lead time of nuclear power is much longer than for generation from fossil fuels. The other reason for the slowdown in growth of nuclear power below what could have been achieved is the large public concern about safety which has lead several governments to declare a moratorium on nuclear power.
This is now being reversed but the effect has been felt in recent years.
Looking forward to 2020 and beyond to 2025, nuclear will remain a key component of the energy mix for many countries. Despite planned curtailment and a slowdown in new build, the need for nuclear power stretches well beyond the current timeframe. As our energy consumption grows, so too will our need for reliable base-load power. With growing concern over greenhouse gas emissions. Looking in the shorter term, to 2020, nuclear is set to form 7% of the total worldwide installed power