Report predicts slight growth for worldwide nuclear capacity

The future of nuclear power is uncertain due to public concern regarding safety and costly safeguards which increase the cost of electricity from nuclear sources, but the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts some growth for this technology through 2010.

Nuclear capacity is projected to increase from 338.1 GWe in 1993 to somewhere between 354.7 and 410.3 GWe, representing an annual growth rate between .3 percent and 1.1 percent, according to EIA`s extensive report, World Nuclear Outlook 1994 (Figure 1). The low end of this projection reflects nuclear moratoriums or slowdowns in effect in Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Also, nuclear construction in Russia has slowed as the country implements a program to improve the safety of its RBMK reactors. Worldwide, this projection is about 17 GWe lower than the previous EIA projection. Most of the reductions came from projections for Canada and the United States.

Due to Canada`s large reserve margins and falling electricity demand, Ontario Hydro, the country`s largest utility, has announced early shutdowns for its Bruce 1 and 2 units. The US projection was lowered as the Tennessee Valley Authority, which had been actively constructing nuclear units, called a halt to its four nuclear projects.

As of Dec. 31, 1993, there were 430 nuclear reactors operating worldwide, with nine units added to the grid and three retired during that calendar year. Japan led all countries with four new nuclear units as Canada, China, France, Russia and the United Stated each added one unit.

The 430 reactors spread through 30 countries and accounted for one-fourth of the electricity generation within those countries. Nuclear-generated electricity totaled 2.093 net terawatthours (TWh), a 3.3 percent boost from 2,027 TWh in 1992. A total 610 TWh was produced from 109 units in the United States, down 9 TWh from a record 619 TWh in 1992. Largest nuclear generating capacity is found in the United States with 99 GWe, followed by France, 59 GWe; Japan, 38 GWe; Germany, 22.7 GWe; Russia, 19.8 GWe; Canada, 15.8 GWe; and the Ukraine, 12.7 GWe (Figure 2).

By 2000, one-fourth of the world`s nuclear units will be at least 25 years old. With reactor lives ranging between 25 and 40 years, aging is a factor many countries are facing, the report stated.

Even after factoring reactor aging, nuclear capacity is expected to grow slightly in the coming years. Several countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, have a few plants under construction. Russia and the Ukraine had more than 10 units planned or under construction, but these countries are still expected to have low net growth.

Western Europe

The Western Europe region, as defined by the report, comprises 10 countries with a total capacity of 122.7 GWe from 153 nuclear units. The Western Europe countries and their respective number of nuclear units, are: Belgium, 7; Finland, 4; France, 57; Germany, 21; Netherlands, 2; Slovenia, 1; Spain, 9; Sweden, 12; Switzerland, 5; and United Kingdom, 35. This region accounts for 36 percent of the world`s total commercial nuclear power capacity. France has the region`s highest capacity at 59 GWe and is the only country in the region with a “robust” nuclear program, attributed to its lack of indigenous energy resources.

Eastern Europe

The 65 nuclear units in EIA`s Eastern Europe region had a total capacity of 43.5 GWe, with Russia and the Ukraine accounting for 75 percent of the region`s capacity. Since nuclear power is expensive, the recession in Eastern Europe is reinforcing low-growth projections. Countries included in this region, with their number of reactors, are: Bulgaria, 6; Kazakhstan, 1; Russia, 29; Ukraine, 15; Czech Republic, 4; Hungary, 4; Lithuania, 2; and the Slovak Republic, 4. By 2000, the region`s nuclear capacity is projected to increase to at least 47.9 GWe, as units that are in advanced stages of construction are completed in Russia and the Ukraine. By 2010, nuclear capacity in this region is expected to hold steady or increase slightly from its 2000 capacity.

Far East

The Far East region accounted for 15 percent of the total world nuclear capacity, as the oil crisis of the mid-1970s and early 1980s led these countries to try nuclear power to spur economic growth. As a result, China, Japan and Taiwan are rapidly developing economically despite a lack of domestic resources. This growing area of nuclear capacity will be the topic of an in-depth feature article in the November/December issue of Power Engineering International.

This region had 65 operable units with a total capacity of 51.3 GWe and is projected to add between 22.8 and 34.4 GWe by 2010. Countries included in this region, and their number of reactors, are: China, 2; Japan, 48; South Korea, 9; and Taiwan, 6.

Other countries

The other countries with nuclear capacity account for only 2 percent of the world`s total nuclear capacity. They are, followed by their number of units: Argentina, 2; Brazil, 1; India, 9; Mexico, 1; Pakistan, 1; and South Africa, 2. There were 16 operable units in this region, but another 15 are planned or under construction, to add another 7.1 GWe.


Uranium use from 1994 to 2010 for commercial reactors throughout the world is projected to be between 2.5 and 2.7 billion pounds. Uranium use is expected to average between 144 and 155 million pounds annually through 2010. Some uranium may be displaced by plutonium in mixed-oxide fuel, but this is not expected to significantly affect uranium use. Four countries in Western Europe are using mixed-oxide fuel, and Japan is planning to use it in a demonstration program.

Two factors are credited with declining uranium prices in the West since the early 1980s. For several years, new uranium production had to compete with the liquidation of excess producer and utility inventories that had built up after reactor construction delays and cancellations. More recently, exports of uranium from the former Soviet Union and from China contributed to weak uranium prices. However, a gradual price increase is projected as uranium inventories are diminished.