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World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2017

Monday 9 January 2017, by Mycle Schneider

The year 2016 was particularly rich in “nuclear news,” with a significant number of new reactors commissioned, the political go-ahead for the emblematic Hinkley Point C project in the U.K., French government rescue attempts for the technically bankrupt, quality-control-scandal-shaken global nuclear champion AREVA, the Toshiba-Westinghouse debacle, and many other events that will be scrutinized, as usual, in the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) to be released in late summer 2017.

Essentials. As in 2015, the year 2016 has seen ten nuclear reactor startups, five of which were in China (eight in 2015), and one each in India, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. The new American unit, Watts-Bar-2 in Tennessee, started up 43 years after construction start—a world record in project longevity. As one reactor, Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, was shut down at the end of the year, the number of reactors operating in the largest nuclear fleet in the world remains stable at 99. Russia shut down its 45-year old Novoronezh-3 reactor.

Leaving the historic Watts-Bar plant aside, once again, nuclear development was dominated by startups in Asia and Eastern Europe.

The total number of operating reactors increased from 396 one year ago to 406 on 1 January 2017—including the restart of two Japanese reactors—still far below the historic maximum of 438 in 2002. The net nominal electricity generating capacity increased by three percent to 352.5 GW, still about 16 GW short of the 2006 historic peak of 368.2 GW.
Japan decided to shut down definitely Ikata-1 that had not generated power since September 2011 and had therefore been considered by WNISR as in Long-Term Outage (LTO) rather than in operation. In addition, Japan pulled the plug on the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor that had been off-grid practically the entire period since a major sodium leak in 1995 and thus moved from LTO to permanent shutdown. Worldwide, as of 1 January 2017, 36 reactors remain in the LTO category, of which 34 in Japan, and one each in Sweden and Taiwan.

New-build projects worldwide were entirely due to the Chinese nuclear industry. Only three new construction sites were inaugurated in 2016, two in China and one in Pakistan, the latter one is being built by CZEC, a Chinese provider. The number of construction starts in the world is down from eight in 2015 and fifteen in 2010, of which, respectively, six and ten took place in China.

As of 1 January 2017, 55 reactors are under construction in thirteen countries, at least 35 of which are behind planning, many of them several years. China alone has 21 units in work of which at least nine are behind schedule. The delayed projects in China include four Westinghouse AP1000 and the two AREVA-Siemens EPRs. All six reactors are currently scheduled for grid connection in 2017, just as four more units in China and six in other countries. Of these 16 reactors, 11 are already behind schedule. The year 2017 will therefore be an interesting test case for the industry.


If you wish to find out more about every detail of nuclear reactor construction 1951—2017, explore the brand new interactive visualization tool developed by WNISR in cooperation with Visionscarto for the prestigious Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with support of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. This tool will soon be also available on the WNISR website.

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