Annual generation of nuclear power has continued on a slight downward trend, decreasing 1.8% last year to 2558 TWh, according to the latest estimates.
With some data yet to come in, estimates by the International Atomic Energy Agency see nuclear power last year meeting 13-14% of the world's electricity demand, which continues to increase rapidly in the developing world.
One factor in nuclear power's perfomance since 2007 has been the prolonged shutdown of large reactors at Kashiwazaki Kariwa in Japan following the Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki earthquake. This, the largest nuclear power plant in the world, accounts for 2% of nuclear capacity and was completely out of action for many months. Two reactors came back into service during 2009 with five still under repair.
Last year saw the shutdown of four reactors but the start-up of only two. Closures included France's Phenix, a prototype fast reactor which produced 233 MWe, and Lithuania's Ignalina 2 which produced 1185 MWe but has been closed early as a condition of EU entry. This was the last of the EU-motivated shutdowns that have taken away a total of 4806 MWe since 2002.
The two oldest reactors at Japan's Hamaoka plant that had been out of action for several years were officially retired after a decision to replace them rather than upgrade to meet heightened earthquake resistance requirements. Their withdrawal took 515 MWe and 806 MWe from global nuclear capacity. The two new reactors of 2009 were Tomari 3 in Japan and Rajasthan 5 in India, both connected to the grid in December so were too late to affect 2009 figures. Respectively they added 866 MWe and 202 MWe.
So far in 2010 Rajasthan 6 has added a further 202 MWe and this year should see seven new reactors totalling 5824 MWe start up. In addition, Canada's Bruce A 1 and 2 should return to service, bringing 1538 MWe of capacity back into action.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News