15 February 2022

WNISR – Nuclear Power 2021

Highest Number of Reactor Closures in a Decade

2021 in nuclear numbers—Six reactor startups, ten less than planned at the beginning of the year. Eight closures plus two closure announcements. Ten construction starts. Three reactors in Long-Term Outage (LTO) restarted, two closed. As of 1 January 2022, 412 reactors in operation, 25 in LTO, and 55 under construction.

The Year 2021 saw the largest number of nuclear reactor closures in a decade, since 2011, when the Fukushima disaster began.

Three of the six remaining units were closed in Germany, as well as three closures announced in the UK including two reactors that had not generated any power since 2018 (and thus enter WNISR closure-statistics that year). Four additional units were closed, one each in Pakistan, Russia, Taiwan and the USA.

In 2021, six new reactors were connected to the grid in four countries, three in China, and one each in Pakistan (by a Chinese company), India, and United Arab Emirates. At the beginning of the year, a total of 16 units were scheduled to start up. Amongst the startups, the first of the twin 100 MW units at Shidao Bay in China, a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) whose construction started in 2012 and took twice as long as expected.

The balance between closures—aside from the closure of two units that were in LTO— and startups is minus two reactors or -2.4 GW. The number of units in operation only increased by one unit from 411 to 412 because of the restart of three reactors in LTO.

In Japan, Mihama-3, shut down since May 2011, was restarted in June 2021 before going offline again in October 2021 due to a delay in the implementation of safety measures required by the safety authorities. This is the first reactor having exceeded 40 years of age that was restarted in Japan. Ikata-3 entered the LTO category in July 2021 but was restarted in December 2021.

The net decline in operational nuclear capacity is to be compared with first estimates of a record addition of 290 GW of renewable energy capacity around the world.

Over the decade 2012–2021, 62 reactors were started up throughout the world, of which 37 in China, and 44 were closed, of which none in China, thus a net decline of 19 units. When including 2011 into the equation, the year when the Fukushima disaster began, there were 69 startups versus 69 closures but the net balance outside China increases to -40 units. The decline outside China is obvious.

China also accounts for six of the ten construction starts in 2021. Russia has proven its presence on the international market implementing the remaining four building projects of which only one at home but two in India and one in Turkey, plus two… in China. This picture reflects quite well the global situation: China builds at home and Russia abroad, otherwise not much to report about industrial developments on the ground, beyond countless more or less vague “plans” and “projects”.

China accounts for 31 of the 63 construction starts in the world over the decade 2012–2021. Three of these building sites were abandoned (outside China). As of the end of 2021, 55 reactors were under construction in 17 countries, a slight increase over the average in the past four years but below the 64 units listed in 2012. China with 20 units and India with eight reactors account for over half of the building projects.