By Lionel Choo
Asia continues to drive the growth of new nuclear capacity globally, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) Performance Report for Asia which was presented at SIEW Energy Insights.
In the last two years, new nuclear reactor start-ups globally totalled 10 gigawatt of capacity – double the average in the past 25 years. Of these, 5 out of 10 reactor start-ups were in China, and 8 out of 10 reactor start-ups were in Asia. There are 60 reactors currently under construction, and more than two-thirds are in Asia.
“By 2030, China will surpass France and the United States in terms of total nuclear capacity”, said Dr Jonathan Cobb, Senior Communication Manager, WNA.
Nuclear power plants are increasingly used for load-following in countries where there are large shares of renewables integrated in the energy system, and could be the solution to provide completely carbon-free electricity generation.
Performance of nuclear power plants has also improved progressively over the years. The global capacity factor (an indicator of a power plant’s energy output over a given period) of nuclear power plants has increased from about 50 percent in the 1970s to more than 80 percent in the last 15 years.
More mature nuclear power plants are also becoming more common as the plant performance is maintained over its lifetime. In some countries, the operating lifetime of a nuclear power plant can be as long as 60 to 80 years.
WNA projects that 1,000 GW of additional nuclear capacity will be needed by 2050, in order to supply a quarter of total global electricity generation, and meet greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets under the two-degree scenario by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In order to increase the deployment of nuclear new builds, Dr Cobb said that action is needed in three key areas – establishing a level playing field for all low-carbon technologies, ensuring harmonised regulatory processes for nuclear licensing and ensuring high safety standards for nuclear are met.