since tsunami waves triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. After radiation leaks forced 300,000 residents to evacuate their homes, the country chose to shutter all 43 of
its nuclear reactors indefinitely—sparking a global debate over the future of nuclear power.
When the government began restarting reactors in August, it became clear the debate was
far from over. Demonstrators were quick to swarm each site, protesting the reactors’ perceived
health and safety risks.
Yet despite its tepid public reception, many governments see nuclear energy as an important
source of emission-free power. From China and India to France and the U.K., countries are
investing in new nuclear construction to help reduce their reliance on carbon-based fuels. With
67 new nuclear reactors under construction in 15 countries, global nuclear capacity is expected
to more than double by 2030, according to the International Atomic Energy Association. And
by 2040, the number of countries that have at least one nuclear plant is predicted to increase
from 30 to 36, according to the 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
This sudden rush poses a problem for nuclear project managers, as the talent pool and supplier base struggle to keep
up. Many of the businesses and specialists that supported the
first wave of nuclear construction in the 1970s pursued other
enterprises after the accidents at Three Mile Island in the U.S.
and Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union put many nuclear
projects on the back burner.
Today, as more organizations tap a limited talent pool, many
nuclear projects are struggling to obtain the materials and
experienced team members they need. In fact, 76 percent of the
new reactors being built are experiencing construction delays,
according to the 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
“[Twenty-five] years is a big gap when it comes to building
and commissioning a nuclear power plant. The knowledge of
how to do that has slowly but surely eroded, and now it has to be
rebuilt. It’s like starting from scratch,” says Alexander Matthey,
With 67 new nuclear
reactors under construction
in 15 countries, global
nuclear capacity is expected
to as much as double by
2030, according to the
International Atomic Energy
Association. Here’s a close-up look at four nuclear
reactor projects in play:
“Until the supplier
base grows and
comes out with new
innovations to improve
cycle of nuclear
equipment, it’s going
to be really difficult
to achieve faster
progress on nuclear
—Kalirajan Sivagnana, Larsen & Toubro
Construction, Chennai, India
Government inspectors visit the Fukushima
Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in