2020 highlighted the resilience of nuclear power in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic: WNA
LONDON – Nuclear reactors generated a total of 2,553 TWh of electricity in 2020, up from 2,657 TWh in 2019, according to the latest World Nuclear Performance Report published by the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
Despite the slight decline, Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León said: “The resilience and flexibility shown by the world’s nuclear fleet tells a very positive story.
The decline in nuclear generation was heavily influenced by the roughly 1% overall drop in global electricity demand in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.
In addition, nuclear reactors were increasingly called upon to monitor the load of the growing share of variable renewable production.
“Any other year, a nearly 4% drop in nuclear output would be an unequivocal disappointment,” Bilbao y León said in the preface to the new report.
“In 2020, the world’s nuclear reactors have demonstrated resilience and flexibility, adapting to changes in demand while ensuring a stable and reliable supply of electricity.”
The capacity factor of the global fleet in 2020 was still high at 80.3%, compared to 83.1% in 2019, but maintained the high performance seen over the past 20 years. Almost two-thirds of reactors had a capacity factor above 80% last year.
“There is no age-related trend in the performance of nuclear reactors,” says the Association.
“The average reactor capacity factor over the past five years shows no significant overall variation with age. As some reactors are now allowed to operate for 80 years, the consistency of reactor performance regardless of their age is notable. “
At the end of 2020, there were 441 nuclear reactors in operation, with a combined capacity of 392 GWe.
This total capacity has remained practically unchanged over the past three years, the new added capacities being offset by the quantity of nuclear capacity permanently shut down.
During 2020, five new reactors with a combined capacity of 5,521 MWe (net) started up: Barakah 1 in the United Arab Emirates; Ostrovets 1 in Belarus; Leningrad II-2 in Russia; and Fuqing 5 and Tianwan 5 in China.
However, six reactors with a cumulative capacity of 5,165 MWe (net) were shut down: units 1 and 2 at Fessenheim in France; Indian Point 2 and Duane Arnold in the United States; Leningrad 2 in Russia; and Ringhals 1 in Sweden.
Between 2018 and 2020, 26 reactors were definitively shut down for a total capacity of 20.8 GWe, against 20 new reactors being started up, for a total capacity of 21.3 GWe.
“With global demand for electricity set to rebound strongly, there is a real risk that greenhouse gas emissions will do the same,” said Bilbao y León.
“More than half of the reactors shut down in recent years have done so not because of technical limitations, but because of political phase-out policies or the failure of markets to adequately recognize the value reliable low-carbon nuclear power. is a waste of low-carbon production that the world can hardly afford to waste. “
However, there are promising signs for nuclear, the Association noted. Already in 2021, four new reactors have been connected to the grid and the construction of seven reactors has started, although two reactors are permanently shut down.
Bilbao y León said: “It is vital that nuclear production bounces further and faster, helping to replace fossil fuels, thus avoiding a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The exploitation of the existing nuclear fleet must be maximized and extended as long as possible, and the pace and scale of new nuclear construction must be accelerated. “
Construction started last year of four new reactors with a combined capacity of 4,473 MWe (net). Three of them are in China (San’ao 1, Taipingling 2 and Zhangzhou 2) and one in Turkey (Akkuyu 2).
The median construction time for reactors connected to the grid in 2020 was 84 months, compared to 117 months in 2019.
The report, which analyzes data from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Power Reactor Information Service database, also includes country reports, summarizing recent developments in each country with operational reactors and / or reactors under construction.
It also presents four case studies highlighting the contribution of nuclear energy to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
These case studies include: the Grohnde nuclear power plant in Germany, which produced 400 TWh of low-carbon electricity; the Haiyang plant in China, which provides district heating; the Akkuyu factory, the first to be built in Turkey; and the Peach Bottom 2 3 units in the United States, which have been approved to operate for 80 years. – WAM