The World Nuclear Association has released a new report, which shows the nuclear power sector to be in a positive state.

The World Nuclear Performance Report found that more nuclear reactors are under construction and more reactors came on line last year than at any time in the last 25 years.

However the IEA’s Executive Director, Fatih Birol, while hailing the sector’s progress, warned that challenges lie ahead in enabling nuclear to help the world reduce its carbon emissions.
Bellefonte nuclear power plant
The report found that nuclear reactor performance has improved steadily over the last 35 years. The WNA pointed out that reactor performance ‘is not fundamentally affected by reactor age; older plants operate as well as younger plants.’

Significantly for the industry, analysis also found that construction times for new reactors have improved over the last 15 years, with reactors coming on line in 2015 having an average construction time of around six years.

Speaking at the launch of the report WNA Director General, Agneta Rising, said, “This report shows that, despite challenging market conditions in some regions, existing nuclear plant performance is strong and the pace of new build is accelerating.”

While the sector has had to contend with highly publicised challenges, major new build programmes, new technology developments, reactor restarts in Japan and strengthening public support mean prospects for the years ahead are brighter.

The WNA warned that ‘the rate of new grid connections will have to increase significantly to support global economic growth, alleviate energy poverty and provide enough clean energy to meet agreed climate change targets. The WNA considers that there should be 1000 GWe of new nuclear build by 2050, with nuclear generation supplying 25 per cent of global electricity demand.Fatih Birol of WNA

Meanwhile Birol told a nuclear conference in Paris that he noted the growth in the sector last year, mainly in China, but added that challenges such as ageing plants and low electricity prices could hobble the sector.

“This is a major challenge for electricity security and climate change. The bulk of this retirement is from OECD countries mainly Europe and United States,” he added.

Birol said for the world to meet its CO2 emission reduction target, the share of nuclear in the power mix needed to rise from 11 per cent to 20 per cent by 2040.

The IEA chief also said that the current low coal prices and inexistent or low prices on carbon emissions was not providing the right signals to investors.

Dr Jonathan Cobb, spokesperson for the World Nuclear Association told Power Engineering International, he did not agree with Birol on the subject of ageing plants.

“As shown in our report, analysis shows that there is no overall fall-off in nuclear plant performance due to age.  Rather than plant aging being an issue, there is great potential for longer-term operation of reactors. However, Mr Birol is right to say that low fossil fuel prices and a lack of a fair carbon price is both hampering investment and making the market environment challenging for low carbon generation.”

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