Nuclear is world’s number two source of clean electricity, reports association

11th August 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Last year nuclear energy generated 25% of the world’s clean (greenhouse gas emissions-free) electricity, and ranked second only to hydropower as a clean energy source, reported the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in its newly published 'World Nuclear Performance Report 2023'. Total electricity generated by nuclear energy last year was 2 545 terawatt hours (TWh), and 2022 was the sixth year in a row that nuclear produced more than 2 500 TWh.

However, the total nuclear generation figure for last year was slightly more than 100 TWh below the figure for 2021. This was largely owing to three events in Europe. The need to carry out a series of welding repairs at nuclear power plants (NPPs), plus other outages, in France, reduced that country’s nuclear generation by 81 TWh. Germany shut down three of its nuclear reactors at the end of 2021. And, the war in Ukraine forced the shutdown of all six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia NPP.

“In contrast to Europe, nuclear electricity generation in Asia increased by 37 TWh last year,” highlighted WNA director-general Sama Bilbao y León. “Over the past ten years nuclear generation in Asia has more than doubled and has now overtaken nuclear generation in West & Central Europe. With three-quarters of the reactors that are under construction in the world in Asia, this is a positive trend that is set to continue.”

Eight new large reactors, all of them pressurised water reactors (PWRs), started construction last year. Five of them were in China, two in Egypt and one in Türkiye. This took the total number of reactors under construction by the end of last year to 60 – two more than at the end of 2021; 51 of these were PWRs. Five reactors were permanently shut down in 2022 and six new ones were connected to their grids; this was the first time in four years that the number of new reactors starting operation exceeded the number of reactors being shut down. The construction times of these new reactors varied enormously, from 69 months for Pakistan’s Chinese-designed Karachi-3, to 199 months for Finland’s French-designed (but first of its kind) Oikiluoto-3.

Regarding operational performance, the global average capacity figure for reactors, worldwide, was 80.5% last year. This was less than the 82.3% recorded in 2021, but still within the trend of 80% and more than has been running continuously since 2000. The region with the highest capacity factor last year was North America, at 90%. Worldwide, slightly more than 66% of reactors had a capacity factor that exceeded 85%. Average capacity factors have increased steadily, in every decade since the 1970s.

“At the same time, nuclear generation should be increasing much more rapidly if we are to achieve global goals of decarbonisation and provide reliable and secure access to clean energy to everyone, everywhere,” she affirmed. “[A] far faster rate of construction and commissioning will be needed, at least a tripling of nuclear capacity worldwide, to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter



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