13 Jan 2020

Is the Era of Nuclear Power Coming to An End?

Nuclear plant at sunset

With plants across the world closing their doors for good and governments leaning towards more renewable sources of energy, it’s easy to think that the era of nuclear power is coming to a fast finish. 

In 2017, big nuclear enthusiasts thought we’d experienced the final nail in the coffin when, in March, Westinghouse (which for many years has been the leading organization for nuclear technology) filed for bankruptcy. 

Was this the turning point?

In actual fact, 2017 was a great year for nuclear power, with reactors around the world performing their best yet. Global electricity output from nuclear reactors was 2506 TWh, which had increased by 29 TWh from 2016. This was the fifth year in a row that nuclear output has been on the rise which showed that the nuclear era was far from over. 

But what’s next for the world of nuclear power?

Capacity is increasing all over the world, with multiple new reactors popping up in Asia and Russia. There are currently around 50 reactors under construction with many more on order or planned for the not-too-distant future. 

On top of this, there has been a huge drive for plant upgrading and lifetime extension programs, which means plants don’t have to shut down when their licenses expire. In the past, nuclear power plants were slapped with a design lifetime of between 25 and 40 years, but newer engineering assessments actually show that many can operate for longer than that. This has led to an overhaul from the NRC, who have granted license renewals to more than 85 reactors around the world. 

When you see all this new movement, it seems more likely that the nuclear world is not facing a fast demise, but is in fact adapting and innovating with the times. 

In the 2018 edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook report, results showed that installed nuclear capacity grew by 25% from 2016. Perhaps the most pivotal finding, though, is how many reactors are being installed in all four corners of the world. 

Nuclear Power is Expanding into Different Parts of the World

While the US remains the world’s largest producer of nuclear power with more than 100 reactors in operation, the industry is already expanding globally. In Asia, construction has begun on the very first reactor in Bangladesh, construction has resumed on South Korea’s Shin-Kori 5, and a reactor has just been finished in Barakah in the UAE. 

Canada is leading the way with new technologies, with a heavy focus on developing small modular reactor technologies. As you can see, it’s all systems go in the nuclear world. 

And, with even more reactors set to go under construction in 2019, it’s looking likely that nuclear generation will be able to meet the harmony goal of supplying 25% of the world’s electricity by 2050. 

Plan ahead and thrive in the ever-changing future of the nuclear power world with our free guide, Contingency Planning 101. 

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