HomeRegional NewsBRICSTaking a closer look into the nuclear industry

Taking a closer look into the nuclear industry

“The nuclear industry has created a product so expensive that no one can afford to buy it,” read part of The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2018.

According to the status report, at the beginning of 2017, 16 reactors were scheduled for startup; however, only three made it to completion, plus one that was then expected in 2018: three in China and one in Pakistan (built by Chinese companies).

In mid-2017, 19 reactors were scheduled for startup in 2018, of which one was connected to the grid already in late 2017, but as of mid-2018, only a further five reactors were connected to the grid—three in China and two in Russia—and seven had already been officially delayed until at least 2019.

The Chinese startups include the world première of grid connection for a Framatome-Siemens designed European Pressurised Water Reactor (EPR) and a Westinghouse AP1000.

The reason for this decline in new nuclear build is blamed on the global growth of renewables; wind power output grew by 17% in 2017, solar by 35%, while nuclear only grew by 1%.

“Non-hydro renewables generate over 3,000TWh more power than a decade ago, while nuclear produces less,” states the report.

Nuclear share of global electricity generation

The nuclear share of global electricity generation remained roughly stable over the past five years (–0.5 percentage points), with a long-term declining trend, from 17.5% in 1996 to 10.3 in 2017.

Seven years after the Fukushima event, Japan restarted building five units by the end of 2017—generating still only 3.6% of the power in the country in 2017—and nine by mid-2018. Read more: Exploring the future of nuclear energy

Fifteen countries are reported to be currently building nuclear power plants, two more than in mid-2017, as newcomer countries Bangladesh and Turkey started building their first units.

As of 1 July 2018, 50 reactors were under construction—18 fewer than in 2013—of which 16 in China.

Total capacity under construction currently stands at 48.5GW.

Overall shrinking role of nuclear

The following seven focus countries, covered indepth in the report, represent about two thirds of the global reactor fleet (63% of the units and 70% of the installed capacity) and six of the world’s nine largest nuclear power producers.

  • China – Nuclear power generation grew by 18% in 2017 and contributed 3.9%, up from 3.6%, of all electricity generated in China.
  • France – Nuclear plants provided 71.6% of the country’s electricity, the lowest share since 1988. This is a decline for the fourth year in a row and seven percentage points below the peak year of 2005 (78.5%). France’s load factor at 67.7% was the fifth lowest in the world.
  • Germany – Germany’s remaining eight nuclear reactors generated 72.2TWh net in 2017, a 10% drop over the previous year and about half of their record year 2001. They provided 11.6% of Germany’s electricity generation, which is little more than one third of the historic maximum two decades ago (30.8 percent in 1997).
  • Japan – Nuclear plants provided only 3.6% of the electricity in Japan in 2017, ten times less than in 1998. As of mid-2018, nine reactors had restarted and 26 remained in LTO.
  • South Korea – Nuclear power output dropped 8.6% in 2017, supplying 27.1% of the country’s electricity, little more than half of the maximum 30 years ago (53.3% in 1987).
  • United Kingdom – Nuclear generation decreased by 1.1% in 2017 and provided 19.3% of the power in the country, down from the maximum of 26.9% in 1997.
  • United States – Nuclear generation remained stable, and its share in the power mix remained 2.5 percentage point below the record level of 22.5% in 1995. State subsidies in the form of Zero Emission Credits (ZEC) have been granted to eight uneconomic nuclear plants to avoid their “early closure”. However, a total of 35 units are reported to be uncompetitive (in addition to six units already slated for closure).

Read the full report here

Babalwa Bungane
Babalwa Bungane is the content producer for ESI Africa - Clarion Events Africa. Babalwa has been writing for the publication for over five years. She also contributes to sister publications; Smart Energy International and Power Engineering International. Babalwa is a social media enthusiast.