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[Updated] World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2019

Operating fleet increases by ten—Construction drops to decadal low

Wednesday 30 January 2019, by Mycle Schneider

[Updated on 30 January 2019]

2018 for global nuclear power in a nutshell

9 reactor startups (8 less than scheduled), 7 closure decisions, 5 construction starts. Two new reactors entered Long-Term Outage, and 7 were restarted. Globally, 415 reactors are operating (10 more than a year ago), 49 are under construction (lowest in a decade).

China dominates world nuclear statistics, as in previous years. Only two countries have started up new reactors in 2018, China connected seven and Russia two. The total of nine new startups compares with 17 units scheduled at the beginning of the year. Seven units were restarted after Long-Term Outages (LTO), four in Japan, and one each in France, India and Switzerland.

Four units were permanently closed, two in Russia, one each in South Korea and the U.S., while two reactors were added to the LTO category, one each in China and India. That brings the total to 415 operating reactors, 10 more than at the beginning of 2018, but still below pre-Fukushima levels and 23 units from the historic peak of 438 in 2002.

Three reactors, two in Japan, one in Taiwan, were officially closed after several years in LTO status. That leaves 28 units in the LTO category, eight less than a year earlier. The total of permanently closed reactors increases by seven to 179.

The number of reactors under construction decreases from 53 to 49. This is the fifth year in a row that a fall has occurred, since 2013, when there were 68 units, and it is the first time in a decade there are less than 50. Work on five reactors started in 2018, one each in Bangladesh, Russia, Turkey—all of which are with Russian technology and investment—and one each in South Korea and the U.K. While EDF-Energy still does not count Hinkley Point C as “under construction” in the U.K., on 4 December 2018, first concrete was poured for the base slab of the reactor building, which marks the official construction start, as defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), EDF’s Chinese partner in the Hinkley Point C project, and the World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) apply the same definition. This is detailed in our piece “The Oddly Discreet Construction Start of Hinkley Point C”, where in spite of the fact that massive construction work has been ongoing for years, over 3,200 construction workers are on-site and several billion pounds have been spent, EDF intends to declare the construction start only in June 2019.

While China has accounted for 35 of 59 units started up in the world over the past decade and has another dozen reactors under construction, the country has not opened any new construction site for a commercial reactor since December 2016 (a demonstration fast breeder reactor not comparable to a commercial project was launched in December 2017). The nuclear industry is awaiting a central government decision over future technology choices and project siting. Construction is expected to be relaunched during the year 2019. However, there is no official government statement as to timing and ambition of future nuclear planning. Meanwhile, CGN, the largest nuclear company in China is investing heavily in non-nuclear technologies. CGN operates already 13 GW of wind power in China, Europe (running the largest onshore wind farm in Belgium) and Australia, and is currently “planning to expand footprint in America and Southeast Asia”, as a company representative told an international conference in Macao in December 2018. Even in China, non-nuclear technologies are starting to dominate CGN’s capacity mix, representing now 23 GW out of 45 GW connected to the grid.

The first annual assessments from Europe also indicate a strong push for renewables that contributed 40 percent of national electricity production in Germany and Spain, as well as one third in the U.K. On the other side of the big pond, in the U.S., PV Magazine has identified a “Solar tsunami” with “an unprecedented, massive volume of solar projects” underway in the U.S. The country “might build 18 GW of solar power in 2019, and just over 19 GW in 2020”.

WNISR NEWS: Since its launch on 4 September 2018 at Chatham House in London (U.K.), WNISR2018 has been presented at events/meetings in Paris (France), Karlsruhe, Freiburg, Berlin (Germany), Washington, D.C. (U.S.), Seoul (South Korea), Beijing, Macao (China), Tokyo (Japan), Taipei (Taiwan). Additional presentations are planned for in Zürich (Switzerland), Grenoble (France) and Brussels (Belgium).

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