Nuclear energy worldwide 2021
The different opinions are currently reflected exemplary in the discussion about the so-called taxonomy of the European Union, which is intended to define which economic activities in the EU can be assessed as “sustainable investments” in the future. It is not yet clear whether nuclear energy is included, and agreement is difficult due to the different positions of the individual member states.
Situation in Germany
However, NPPs are not the only nuclear facilities in Germany. The 6 research reactors currently in operation may continue to be operated after 2022. The same applies to the so-called nuclear fuel cycle facilities. In addition to the storage and disposal facilities for radioactive waste, these include the fuel fabrication plant at Lingen and the uranium enrichment plant at Gronau.
The share of nuclear energy in global electricity production has been fairly stable at between 10 and 11 % in recent years (here and in the following, the figures relating to the electricity mix are taken from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and reflect the situation in 2018) and is quite far from its record high (17.5 % in 1996). This decrease, however, is not due to less electricity being produced in NPPs. It is rather due to the fact that the relative share has fallen because renewables have been expanded, but above all because fossil power plants produce significantly more electricity in absolute terms than in previous years and decades.
The following overview shows the situation according to continent (Europe, America, Asia and Africa) Australia/Oceania is not included as no NPPs are operated there. After a brief summary, a selection of countries is presented for each continent that either operate a particularly large number of reactors or where new developments have taken place or are emerging. For a more detailed list of all countries, please refer to the IAEA's Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) or the World Nuclear Industry Status Report.
The United Kingdom also continues to rely on nuclear energy – about 17.4 % of its electricity comes from NPPs. Currently, 13 reactor units are in operation, 2 more are under construction (Hinkley Point C) and 30 reactor units are being dismantled. At the Sizewell site, 2 more units are to be built. According to the Johnson government's “Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution”, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs) are to play an important role in the energy mix in the future. For example, the Rolls-Royce group has announced that it will produce SMRs. The smaller-scale reactors are to find customers both in the Kingdom and abroad – for example, Rolls-Royce is in talks with an Estonian start-up.
All in all, there is no major expansion activity in Western Europe; apart from France and the UK, only Finland is building a new unit (Olkiluoto) in addition to the 4 units that are operated, which will reduce the average age of 41.8 years. According to latest reports, commercial operation is scheduled to start in February 2022. For the construction of another reactor unit, the construction site has been prepared and the application for a construction permit submitted. All projects in Western Europe have in common that the originally calculated costs and construction times have massively increased.
Central and Eastern Europe
In Slovakia, in addition to the 4 reactors currently in operation which produce a share of approximately 54 %, 2 more will be commissioned in the near future. The situation is similar in Hungary where half of its electricity is currently generated by 4 reactor units. The construction of 2 new reactor units is being prepared. Nuclear newcomers are Belarus, Poland and Turkey: Poland plans to connect the first of a total of 6 reactors to the grid from 2033; in Belarus commercial operation of the first reactor unit is about to be started, the second is to follow next year; in Turkey, 4 reactor units are currently under construction.
The United States operate 94 reactors, more than any other country in the world, providing 19.7 % of the electricity. The average age is 40.2 years. This figure is likely to rise in the coming years: Lifetime extensions of a majority of the reactors from 40 to 60 years have already been decided, a further extension to 80 years has already been approved for 6 reactor units, and extending operating licences to 100 years is at least being considered. However, since in some cases the retrofits required for such lifetime extensions would have been too expensive, several plants have been shut down, most recently the third and last unit at Indian Point in New York State. Nuclear energy is to play a greater role in the energy planning of the new President Joe Biden. Accordingly, the development of new reactor concepts, especially SMRs, is to be promoted. In addition, American companies are again increasingly interested in reactor projects abroad, such as in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
In South Korea, the share of nuclear energy is much higher: 26.3 % is produced by the 23 reactors currently in operation. Although the government plans to phase out nuclear energy, the 4 reactor units under construction will be completed. 12 reactors are to be decommissioned by 2043. South Korea is also trying to get involved in construction projects in various countries. It is already active in the United Arab Emirates and talks are ongoing with the Czech Republic and Ukraine, for example.
Following the events in Fukushima, Taiwan has decided to phase out nuclear energy. The remaining 4 reactors are to continue generating electricity until 2025 before they will be shut down.
Near and Middle East
In Asia, there are also a number of countries that are nuclear newcomers. These include Bangladesh, where 2 Russian design reactor units are currently under construction, and the United Arab Emirates: Barakah-1 recently started commercial operation, with 3 more to follow shortly (all Korean APR-1400).
The fact that nuclear energy production hardly takes place in Africa at present does not mean that it is not interesting for some countries. The power grids on the continent will have to be expanded in the coming years, and nuclear energy could play a role in this. China and Russia have already put out feelers.