2008: Three reactors shut, ten more begin construction

05 January 2009

An earlier version of this story omitted to mention the resumption of construction on the Mochovce 3 and 4 reactors in Slovakia, this is included in context below.

Three old nuclear power reactors were shut down worldwide during 2008, while no new units were started up. However, construction started on ten new power reactors, whilst power uprates of several existing plants helped bolster operating capacity.



The 408 MWe Bohunice 2 reactor - the second unit of the V1 plant - in Slovakia was shut down on 31 December as a condition of the country's accession to the European Union (EU). The V1 plant comprised two VVER-440 type 230 reactors. The first unit of the plant was closed at the end of December 2006, also as part of Slovakia's entry into the EU.

Lubomir Jahnatek, Slovakia's economy minister commented, "Slovakia can now say that we have met our commitment to the EU." The EU had insisted on the closure of the Soviet-era reactors, claiming the units could not be modified to reach modern safety standards. However, having made extensive changes to the reactors, Slovakia has maintained that they were safe and could have continued operating for at least another 10-15 years.
Meanwhile, construction resumed on Slovakia's long-stalled Mochovce 3 and 4 reactors. The units were started in 1986 by Soviet contractors, but work ground to a halt in 1992. Plans to modernise safety of the unfinished units were accepted by the European Union and on 4 November 2008 construction work officially restarted. The reactors will add 440 MWe each to Slovakian generating capacity and restore its status as an electricity exporter when complete in 2012 and 2013.
Elsewhere, the construction of ten other nuclear power reactors commenced during 2008, mainly in Asia, but also in Russia. In China, construction began on six new units: Hongyanhe 1, Fuqing 1, Ningde 1 and 2, Yangjiang 1, and Fangjiashan 1. Construction also started on Shin Wolsong 2 and Shin Kori 1 in South Korea. In Russia, building of two new units began: Leningrad II-1 and Novovoronezh II-1. Together, these units have boosted the total number of new reactors under construction worldwide to 43 (with a total capacity of 37.6 GWe), up from 33 (26.6 GWe) a year earlier.
In late December, Japan's Chubu Electric Power Co announced that it had decided to permanently shut down the two oldest reactors at its Hamaoka plant. Units 1 and 2, which have generated 540 MWe and 840 MWe respectively since starting up in 1973 and 1978, required modification to meet seismic standards imposed after the July 2007 Niigata Chuetsu offshore earthquake. The company decided it was more viable to construct a new reactor at the site than to modify the existing units.
In India, Kaiga 4 and Rawatbhata 5 - both 202 MWe capacity pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) - were scheduled to start up in 2008 but this had been delayed due to fuel shortages.
About a dozen power uprates during 2008 in five countries have also added to the total generating capacity of currently operating nuclear power plants.