2020 highlighted nuclear resilience under the COVID-19 pandemic, says World Nuclear Association

LONDON, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News / WAM – Sep 03, 2021) Nuclear reactors generated a total of 2553 TWh of electricity in 2020, up from 2657 TWh in 2019, according to the World Nuclear Association’s latest World Nuclear Performance Report.

Despite the small decline, the association’s general manager, Sama Bilbao y León, said “the resilience and flexibility of the global nuclear fleet tell a very positive story”.

The decline in nuclear production was heavily influenced by the overall decline in global electricity demand by around 1 percent in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report said. In addition, nuclear reactors were increasingly required to support the growing share of variable renewable generation in a load-dependent manner.

“Any other year, a decline in nuclear production of almost 4 percent would be a definite disappointment,” says Bilbao y León in the foreword of the new report. “In 2020, the world’s nuclear reactors have shown resilience and flexibility, adapting to changes in demand while ensuring a stable and reliable power supply.”

The capacity factor of the global fleet was still high in 2020 at 80.3 percent after 83.1 percent in 2019, but maintained the high performance of the last 20 years. Almost two thirds of the reactors last year had a capacity factor of more than 80 percent.

“There is no age-related trend in the performance of nuclear reactors,” says the association. “The average capacity factor for reactors over the past five years shows no significant overall variation with age. With some reactors now approved for 80 years, the constancy of performance of the reactors regardless of age is remarkable.”

At the end of 2020 there were 441 operational nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 392 GWe. This total capacity has remained almost unchanged in the last three years, with the addition of nuclear capacities being offset by the capacities that have been permanently switched off.

In 2020 five new reactors with a total capacity of 5521 MWe (net) were commissioned: Barakah 1 in the United Arab Emirates; Ostrowets 1 in Belarus; Leningrad II-2 in Russia; and, Fuqing 5 and Tianwan 5 in China. However, six reactors with a total capacity of 5165 MWe (net) were shut down: Fessenheim Units 1 and 2 in France; Indian Point 2 and Duane Arnold in the US; Leningrad 2 in Russia; and Ringhals 1 in Sweden.

Between 2018 and 2020, 26 reactors with a total capacity of 20.8 GWe were permanently shut down, while 20 new reactors with a total capacity of 21.3 GWe were commissioned.

“With global electricity demand likely to recover strongly, there is a real risk that the same will happen in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bilbao y León. “More than half of the reactors that have been shut down permanently in recent years did not happen because of technical restrictions, but because of political exit policies or because the markets do not adequately recognize the value of low-carbon, reliable nuclear power the world cannot afford. ”

However, there are promising signs for nuclear energy, the association noted. As early as 2021, four new reactors were connected to the grid and the construction of seven reactors began, although two reactors were shut down permanently.

Bilbao y León said: “It is vital that nuclear production returns farther and faster in order to displace fossil fuels and avoid large increases in greenhouse gas emissions. The operation of the existing nuclear fleet needs to be maximized and extended for as long as possible. and the pace and scope of new nuclear construction must increase. ”

Last year the construction of four new reactors with a total capacity of 4473 MWe (net) began. Three of them are in China (San’ao 1, Taipingling 2 and Zhangzhou 2) and one in Turkey (Akkuyu 2).

The average construction time for connecting the reactors 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 the latest developments in each country with operational reactors and / or reactors under construction.

Four case studies will also be presented, 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 Plant, the first plant built in Turkey; and peach bottom units 2 3 in the US that have been approved for operation for 80 years.

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