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Global nuclear generation climbs steadily, mainly in Asia
Global nuclear power generation reached a near-record high in 2019, with output reaching 2,657 TWh, according to the World Nuclear Association Performance Report 2020, published by the industry’s trade association. The total, which has climbed steadily for the last eight years and is now second to the 2006 peak of 2,661 TWh, is enough to meet more than 10% of the world’s electricity demand.
However, given stalled progress towards new nuclear generation in Europe and North America, the industry says that action is needed now to kick-start more new nuclear construction projects. Growth was strong in Asia, where nuclear generation rose by 17% in 2019, says the report. Indeed, China has more than tripled nuclear generation in six years, from 105 TWh in 2013 to 330 TWh in 2019 and is now responsible for more than half of nuclear generation in Asia.
But, while the performance of the world’s operating reactors continued to improve, the pace of new nuclear start-ups needs to increase to meet the nuclear industry’s ‘Harmony’ goal for the future, says the World Nuclear Association (WNA). Six reactors, with a combined capacity of 5.2 GW, started supplying electricity in 2019, against an industry target of 10 GW per year.
Agneta Rising, Director General of WNA said: ‘Globally there are more than 100 nuclear new build projects that are ready to begin. Each would generate thousands of jobs during construction and hundreds of jobs for 60 years or more of operation. They would help contribute to economic recovery plans and deliver the clean and reliable electricity needed to meet sustainable development goals.’
Four large PWR reactors started up in 2019, one in South Korea, one in Russia and two in China, says the WNA. In addition, two small reactors stated up on the world’s first purpose-built floating nuclear plants, harboured at Pevek on the northeast Russian coast.
Nuclear generation fell fractionally in North America and in West and Central Europe, but rose in Africa, Asia, South America and East Europe and Russia. Thirteen reactors shut down in 2019, four in Japan that had not generated since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, with three shut down due to phase-out policies in South Korea, Germany and Taiwan.
Construction started on five reactors in 2019, two in China and one each in Iran, Russia and the UK, says the WNA.
The average global capacity factor for reactors generating electricity in 2019 rose from 79.8% to 82.5% and more than two-thirds of the world’s reactors achieved a capacity factor greater than 80%, says the report, maintaining the improvement there has been since the 1970s, when fewer than 30% achieved this level of performance.
Not reported in the WNA report was the start-up of Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi – a first for the Arab world. Unit 1 was connected to the grid in August this year and has begun supplying electricity to the UAE. The South Korean-supplied APR1400 is expected to enter full commercial operation later this year. The Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (Transco) has built 950 km of 400 kV overhead lines to connect the Barakah plant to the Abu Dhabi electricity grid.
Last, Finnish electricity supplier Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) has been told by the Areva-Siemens consortium that is building the much-delayed Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant that regular electricity production will now start in February 2022. According to the new schedule, fuel will be loaded into the reactor in March 2021 and the unit will be connected to the grid in October of the same year.
Photo: Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation