The Capacity of Nuclear Power

It is already clear from the figures presented in Table 1.1 that nuclear reactors are a major energy source. Nuclear reactors have been built in many countries and their energy production is given in Table 4.1. Nuclear accounts for about 80% of the electricity generated in France, and smaller but still substantial amounts in other countries, mainly in Europe, where nuclear energy production now exceeds that of coal. Uranium is plentiful and since its cost is a small fraction (15-20%) of the total it will still be economic even if poorer deposits than those now used have to be mined. Even if it does become uneconomic to mine, it will be possible to burn the uranium 238 in fast reactors, as discussed in Section 4.7. Since uranium 238 is about 140 times more plentiful than uranium 235 such reactors can operate for the foreseeable future. Present estimates are that the supplies of uranium will last about 300 years. Nuclear power stations cost £1100 to 1400 per kW to build, similar to the cost of coal power stations.

France, now producing about 80% of its electricity by nuclear power, exports nuclear-generated electricity to several surrounding countries. In 2001 this amounted to 15.8 TWh to Italy, 15.2 to Germany, 14.7 to the UK, 8.3 to Belgium and 7.4 to Switzerland (Nuclear Issues, December 2001).

The capacity of nuclear power can be illustrated by comparing the amounts of other sources required to equal the output of a 1000 MWe

Table 4.1. The Capacity of Nuclear Power (Nuclear Issues 23, May 2001).

Reactors in operation

Reactors under construction

Electricity supplied in 2000 (1999)

Operating experience

Load factor

Table 4.1. The Capacity of Nuclear Power (Nuclear Issues 23, May 2001).

Reactors in operation

Reactors under construction

Electricity supplied in 2000 (1999)

Operating experience

Load factor

No of

Capacity

No of

Capacity

Percentage

Country

units

MW(e)

units

MW(e)

TWh(e)

of total

Yrs

Mths

Percentage

Argentina

2

935

1

692

5.7 (6.6)

7.3 (9.0)

44

7

69.6

Armenia

1

376

1.8 (2.1)

33.0 (36.4)

33

3

54.6

Belgium

7

5712

45.4 (46.6)

56.8 (57.7)

170

7

90.7

Brazil

2

1855

5.6 (4.0)

1.5 (1.3)

19

3

34.5

Bulgaria

6

3538

18.2 (14.5)

45.0 (47.1)

113

2

58.7

Canada

14

9998

68.7 (70.4)

11.8 (12.7)

433

2

78.4

China

3

2167

8

6420

16.0 (14.1)

1.2 (1.2)

23

5

84.3

Czech Rep.

5

2569

1

912

13.6 (13.4)

18.5 (20.8)

58

9

60.4

Finland

4

2656

21.1 (22.1)

32.2 (33.1)

87

4

90.7

France

59

63073

395.0 (375.0)

76.4 (75.0)

1169

2

71.5

Germany

19

21122

159.6 (160.4)

30.6 (31.2)

591

1

86.3

Hungary

4

1729

14.7 (14.1)

42.2 (38.3)

62

2

97.1

India

14

2503

2

606

14.2 (11.5)

3.1 (2.7)

181

5

64.8

Iran

2

2111

Japan

53

43491

3

3190

304.9 (306.9)

33.8 (36.0)

962

8

80.0

Lithuania

2

2370

8.4 (9.9)

73.7 (73.1)

30

6

40.5

Mexico

2

1360

7.9 (9.6)

3.9 (5.0)

17

11

66.3

Netherlands

1

449

3.7 (3.4)

4.0 (4.0)

56

0

(Continued)

Table 4.1. (Continued)

Reactors in operation

Reactors under construction

Electricity supplied in 2000 (1999)

Operating experience

Load factor

Table 4.1. (Continued)

Reactors in operation

Reactors under construction

Electricity supplied in 2000 (1999)

Operating experience

Load factor

No of

Capacity

No of

Capacity

Percentage

Country

units

MW(e)

units

MW(e)

TWh(e)

of total

Yrs

Mths

Percentage

Pakistan

2

425

1.1 (0.7)

1.7 (1.2)

29

10

Romania

1

650

1

650

5.1 (4.8)

10.1 (10.7)

4

6

89.6

Russia

29

19843

3

2825

119.7 (110.9)

15.0 (14.4)

671

6

68.9

South Africa

2

1800

13.0 (13.5)

6.6 (7.4)

32

3

82.5

South Korea

16

12990

4

3820

103.5 (97.8)

40.7 (42.8)

169

2

91.0

Slovak Rep.

6

2408

2

776

16.5 (13.1)

53.4 (47.0)

85

0

78.2

Slovenia

1

676

4.5 (4.5)

37.4 (36.2)

19

3

76.0

Spain

9

7512

59.3 (56.5)

27.6 (30.1)

192

2

90.1

Sweden

11

9432

54.8 (70.1)

39.0 (46.8)

278

1

66.3

Switzerland

5

3192

25.0 (23.5)

38.2 (36.0)

128

10

80.4

Taiwan

6

4884

2

2560

37.0 (36.9)

23.6 (25.3)

110

1

86.5

UK

35

12968

78.3 (91.2)

21.9 (28.9)

1203

4

68.9

Ukraine

13

11207

4

3800

72.4 (67.4)

47.3 (43.8)

240

10

73.7

USA

104

97411

753.9 (719.4)

19.8 (19.5)

2455

8

88.3

Totals

438

351327

31

27756

2447.5 (2394.6)

9819

11

nuclear reactor in one year. These are 6000 wind turbines; the burning of 30,000 km squared of forest; 2.3 million tons of coal; 1.9 million tons of oil; 18,000 cubic metres of gas or 100 square km of solar panels. For any given country, these figures have to be multiplied by the number of power stations needed.

In the next forty years about 2000 fossil fuel power stations must be replaced. Can this be done by building 4000 windmills on 500 sq.km each week? Or by covering 10 sq.km of desert each week with solar panels? Or by building 50 nuclear power stations each year? Such a rate of building is quite practicable as 43 were built in 1983 alone. There is thus no doubt that nuclear power can be expanded to meet the major part of our energy needs.

It is therefore quite practicable to bring the share of generation of nuclear electricity in the UK up to 80% by the year 2020. This is confirmed by the French achievement; they increased their output from around 50 TWh in 1980 to 400 TWh in 2000. At one time they were commissioning a new reactor every two weeks (Nuclear Issues, March 2008).

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