The number of operating reactors fell in from 441 at the beginning of 2011 to 435 in early 2012, representing a decrease in installed nuclear capacity of around 10 GW or 3%.
Six new reactors (3977 MW) were connected to the grid in 2011, but over double that were closed (11,358 MW), most as a direct response to the Fukushima accident in March. Construction started on just two new reactors in 2011.
As in the past few years, the new reactors coming online were primarily in Asia: Kaiga 4 (India) Chasnupp 2 (Pakistan), Ling Ao 4 and Qinshan 2-4 (China), Kalinin 4 (Russia) and Bushehr 1 (Iran).
In the summer of 2011, Chasnupp 3, a 315 MW pressurized water reactor in Pakistan and Rajasthan 7 in a 630 MW heavy water reactor in India both started construction. The fall from construction starts in double figures over the last three years is largely a result of Fukushima. (Ten, 11 and 15 reactors began construction in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively, compared with just two in 2011.
The UK magnox reactor Oldbury A2 was permanently shut down on 30 June, after over four decades of operation. Eight reactors were shuttered in Germany as a result of the political fallout from Fukushima (Biblis A&B, Neckar 1, Brunsbuettel 1, Isar 1, Kruemmel, Phillipsburg 1 and Unterweser). Units 1-4 at Fukushima were also officially closed in 2011.
Despite the decrease in new construction and the thirteen reactors closed in 2011 the outlook for nuclear remains positive. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) predicts the number of operating reactors to increase by 90 (low case) and 350 (high case) by 2030. Most of this growth is expected to occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, especially in India and China.
In marked contrast to 2009-2010 with 18 reactors starting construction, no new nuclear construction began in China in 2011. The government suspended approvals for new nuclear projects in the wake of Fukushima and this remains the case, however construction continues on over 20 reactors including Westinghouse AP1000 and Areva EPR designs
Major achievements in the US and UK in 2011 have included the licensing of Generation III reactors (AP1000 and EPR), which paves the way for large nuclear construction programmes there. Counties including Poland, Belarus and Saudi Arabia are also gearing up for nuclear new built and work progresses in the UAE where the first APR1400 is due to start construction later this year.
Finally, the renewed focus on safety following Fukushima can also be seen as a positive move for the industry. Many reactors have carried out modifications to further improve the safety of their units. All 143 reactors in Europe are being subject to ‘stress tests’. As of early January, final stress test reports had been submitted to the European Commission by most countries.
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