EXPRESS #2 - August 21, 2018
“The world’s nuclear reactors performed excellently in 2017.” That at least is the main takeaway of Agneta Rising, Director-General of the World Nuclear Association, who wrote the Preface of the WNA’s World Nuclear Performance Report 2018, published on 15 August.
My own main takeaway from the report is that the global nuclear market was stagnant/stable last year – whichever word you prefer. It’s not good news, not too bad either.
“Global nuclear electricity output was 2506 TWh, an increase of 29 TWh compared to 2016. This marked the fifth successive year that nuclear output has increased, with generation 160 TWh higher than in 2012”, writes Rising.
That sounds optimistic, but it’s just tiny growth, as this chart shows:
In terms of capacity, there was also very small growth – of 2 GW:
Note: the net capacity of nuclear plant that generated electricity in 2017 was 352 GWe. The large amount of not-operating capacity is due to the effects of Fukushima.
Note that in 2017 some 178 GW of new renewable power capacity was added in the world. A lot more than the 2 GW of nuclear capacity, in other words. Solar PV alone increased by 98 GW, wind power by 52 GW.
Of course the capacity factor of nuclear power is higher than that of solar or wind. It stood at 81% in 2017, reports WNA. The global average capacity factor has remained fairly constant over the last 15 years and there has been no significant change to the spread of capacity factors across the fleet either, according to the report. However, “an increasing number of reactors are operating in a load-following mode, resulting in lower annual capacity factors”.
Asia was the only region where nuclear power grew last year:
With four construction starts, two reactor construction cancellations and four reactors being grid connected, the total number of reactors under construction fell by two to 59 over the course of 2017.
Meanwhile, Nobuo Tanaka, the former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency and long-time nuclear advocate, recently said at a symposium in Tokyo that nuclear power is “ridiculously expensive” compared with solar power and cannot compete from a financial standpoint.
“I was greatly shocked to hear that the IEA say that solar becomes the cheapest source of electricity generation in many countries in its 2017 report,” said Tanaka, according to a report on Asahi Shimbun.
Tanaka has served as an executive board member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, which represents nuclear plant manufacturers.