A view over Europe

28 March 2018

NEI takes a look at the status of nuclear power in Europe

There are currently 126 operating reactors across 14 European Union (EU) member states with an installed capacity of 120GWe, generating as much as 27% of the EU’s electricity. Globally, Europe is the leader in terms of cumulative nuclear power capacity. However, its share in global nuclear capacity looks set to fall from 40% in 2016 to 31% by 2030, according to analysis from GlobalData. Meanwhile, Asia’s share will rise from 27% to 42%.

A decline in European nuclear capacity reflects the decision of some countries to phase out or reduce the share of nuclear in their energy mixes, including Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland.

In addition, the European reactor fleet has an average age of 30 years. Therefore, significant investment will be required to support life extension and related safety upgrades of existing units. According to the European Commission (EC) an estimated €45-50 billion will be needed to support this work to 2050. Without such a life extension programme some 90% of the EU’s existing reactors will have to be retired by 2030.

Four reactors are being built in the EU: in France (Flamanville 3), Finland (Olkiluoto 3), and Slovakia (Mochovce 3&4). However, all three projects have suffered lengthy delays and cost escalation. Around 20 further units are proposed, with plants in Finland (Hanhikivi 1), Hungary (Paks II) and the UK (Hinkley Point C) undergoing licensing. Other projects in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Romania remain at a preparatory stage.


Baseload power demand in Belgium is currently met through a combination of renewable (18%) and thermal (30%). Nuclear generation accounts for 52% from seven reactors at two nuclear plants – Doel and Tihange. The importance of nuclear power is steadily declining while the role of gas-based thermal power generation grows. After 2025, the date mandated for the decommissioning of all of Belgium’s nuclear plants, the county is expected to turn to renewable and thermal sources to bridge the gap created by the absence of nuclear energy. However, a PwC Enterprise Advisory report in October 2016 showed that Belgium would be unable to meet its climate goals whilst achieving long-term electricity price stability and security of supply without a significant contribution from nuclear energy beyond 2025.


Bulgaria has two operating VVER-1000/V-320 power reactors at Kozloduy 5&6, generating about one-third of its electricity. Four smaller VVER-440/V-230 units, Kozloduy 1-4, were closed ahead of Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in 2007. Bulgaria had also planned to build a new nuclear plant at Belene on the Danube with construction of the first VVER-1000 unit commencing in 1987. Belene was partly built, but aborted in 1991 following the Soviet collapse. The project was resurrected in 2002 and in 2006 Russia’s Atomstroyexport won an international tender to build the two-unit plant. A contract for two VVER-1000 reactors was signed in 2008 but the project was cancelled in 2012 following a change of government. In 2016 the International Court of Arbitration awarded Atomstroyexport €620m ($688m) for equipment already manufactured, and Bulgaria agreed to take possession of the reactors. The Bulgarian government is now considering reviving the project with private investment.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has six operating reactors: four VVER-440 V-213 units at Dukovany and two VVER-1000 V-320 units at Temelin. In 2009 power company CEZ launched a project to extend the operating lifetimes of the Dukovany units by ten years. In 2016 Dukovany 1 was licensed for continued operation indefinitely, subject to ongoing reporting, followed by Dukovany 2-4 in 2017. The Government’s 2004 state energy policy envisaged building two or more large reactors. In 2008 CEZ announced plans to build two new units at Temelin and a tender process, launched in 2009, saw bids submitted by Russia’s Rosatom, France’s Areva, and US-based Westinghouse.

Areva’s bid was later disqualified and, in the face of differences between the Government and CEZ over financing, CEZ cancelled the procurement process in 2014. The following year the cabinet approved a plan for one new unit at Dukovany, with the option of three more at the two sites. It recommended that CEZ should set up a subsidiary company to prepare construction plans and explore options for financing. Although CEZ held talks with six consortia about the potential project, no further progress is likely until questions over finance and the reorganisation of CEZ have been resolved. Lawmakers are expected to make recommendations to the Government later in 2018 after studying the options.


France has the largest European nuclear fleet with 58 operable reactors, providing around 75% of the country’s electricity generation. Many reactors are approaching the end of their lifetime. EDF estimated it will need to spend €50 billion on upgrades. However a report by France’s state audit office in 2016 found EDF would need to spend closer €100 billion to upgrade its fleet by 2030 to meet new safety requirements and extend the lives of the reactors beyond 40 years. Against this backdrop, France has begun an ambitious energy transition. A 2015 Energy Act aims to reduce the share of nuclear energy from 75% today to 50% by 2025 and is supporting the development of renewables. However, this may now be delayed.

The 1650MW Flamanville 3 EPR, which started construction in December 2007, recently completed cold testing and remains on schedule for fuel loading and startup before the end of 2018. Full power operation is expected in November 2019. Two reactors at Fessenheim – the oldest units in France – are scheduled to shut down once Flamanville 3 is commissioned.


Finland has four operating reactors, an EPR under construction at Olkiluoto 3, and a VVER-1000 planned for Hanhikivi, in the north of the country. Nuclear power accounts for about 30% of the electricity production in Finland, possibly rising to 40-45% when the two new reactors are commissioned, subject to licence extensions for the existing fleet. Teollisuuden Voima Oyj has applied to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment to extend the operating life for Olkiluoto 1&2 (2x910MW boiling water reactors) beyond 2018 and is expecting to receive a decision by the middle of the year.

The operating licences for Loviisa 1 and 2, which accounted for 10% of Finland’s electricity production in 2018, expire at the end of 2027 and 2030 respectively. Fortum says no technical reasons were identified to preclude a life extension, but that it is in no hurry to make any decisions. Finland is short of power – although Olkiluoto 3 is inching closer – and currently imports about a quarter of its electricity from the Nordic market. Most of the construction work has been completed at the Olkiluoto 3 project, which started in May 2005, and hot functional testing is now underway. Olkiluoto 3 is scheduled for connection to the national grid in December 2018. Regular electricity production should start in May 2019.

Fennovoima expects to receive the construction licence for its planned 1200MW Hanhikivi 1 VVER nuclear power plant in 2019, with full operation expected midway through the next decade.


Germany had its first nuclear installation in 1962 and went on to become one of the leading global nations. Today Germany has seven operating reactors with a total capacity of 10GWe, but they will all close within the next five years. In March 2011, immediately after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the German government decided it would shutdown all its reactors by 2022. This phaseout was ratified into law by the Parliament in June 2011 and amendments were made to the country’s Atomic Energy Act. Table 1 gives the anticipated closure dates for the remaining German reactors. Gundremmingen B was closed at the end of 2017 and Phillipsburg 2 will be the next unit to retire in 2019. There are currently 21 reactors under decommissioning in Germany.

The country aims to have a nuclear-free power mix with the majority of its power generated from renewable sources. It will not be easy to implement, and the cost of attempting to replace nuclear power with renewables is estimated at some €1000 billion. The German Government’s high subsidies on renewable energies have led to increased electricity prices. To meet the rising demand for electricity, Germany is moving towards other sources of generation such as coal and gas.


Hungary has four VVER-440/V-213 reactors at Paks, which started up between 1982 and 1987, and supply more than one-third of the country’s electricity. Owner/operator MVM Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd has carried out power uprates and a lifetime extension programme. All four units now have a gross capacity of 510MWe and have had their operating licences extended for 20 years. Two new units are to be built at Paks (Paks-II) under a 2014 agreement between the Government and Rosatom, with Russia providing €10bn to cover 80% of the finance. EU approval was finally granted after protracted negotiations. The two new units will have generation 3+ VVER-1200 reactors, and will be “functionally and legally” independent of the existing plant. A construction permit is expected later in 2018.


Italy – which adopted a nuclear phaseout policy after a 1987 post-Chernobyl referendum – has four nuclear reactors undergoing decommissioning. In 2008 a new pro-nuclear government announced plans to start building nuclear power plants to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, gas and power imports. However, all plans were scrapped following Fukushima. In March 2011, the Italian Government approved a one-year moratorium on the construction of a new nuclear plant. In June 2011, Italian citizens voted against nuclear power in a referendum and new build plans have been abandoned.


Lithuania closed the last of its two Soviet-built RBMK-1500 reactors at Ignalina at the end of 2009 as a condition for accession to the EU. The plant had been generating 70% of Lithuania’s electricity and was also a source of electricity exports. Decommissioning is now underway. In 2007, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, together with Poland, agreed to build a new 3200MWe NPP at Ignalina, to be called Visaginas. In 2011 the Government selected Hitachi as a strategic investor in the project following a tender. GE Hitachi planned to build a single 1350MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor but disagreements between the participating countries stalled progress, with Poland eventually pulling out of the project in 2011. Lithuania’s stated aim is to reduce its dependence on Russia after consistently opposing Russia’s plans to build new plants in Kaliningrad, and Belarus refusing to consider power imports from either.


Nuclear power accounted for just 3% of Dutch electricity production in 2016, with the majority of power being provided from fossil fuels (natural gas and coal). The Netherlands has one operating reactor, a 515MW pressurised water reactor at Borssele. In 2006 the Government decided to extend the life of the unit for 20 years, until 2033.

In 2008 Delta – the joint owner of Borssele – announced plans to build a second 1000-1600MW reactor at the site. However, plans were postponed in 2012, mainly on financial grounds.


In the 1980s Poland had four Soviet VVER-440 reactors under construction at the Zarnowiec NPP, but the project was cancelled in 1990 in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. A new nuclear power plant was approved in the 2005–2025 energy strategy document, as part of a diverse energy portfolio, to reduce heavy dependence on coal and imported gas. In 2009, a resolution by the Council of Ministers called for construction of at least two plants in Poland or at least 4.6GWe by 2030. This plan remains in place, albeit delayed. In 2014 the Government endorsed a revised programme with the first unit scheduled to start up in 2024. Site characterisation proceeded at two locations, but methods of financing the project remain unresolved. In January 2017 the Energy Ministry said the nuclear plans had been suspended but retracted this the following July. Today discussions are continuing.


Romania has two reactors at its Cernavoda nuclear plant, which generate almost 20% of the country’s electricity and provide district heat.

Cernavoda was initially planned as the site for five Candu 6 pressurised heavy water reactors. Although Cernavoda 1 began operation in 1996 work on a further four units had been suspended back in 1991. Cernavoda 2 was subsequently completed and began commercial operation in 2007. In October 2017 Romania’s Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN) won shareholder approval to upgrade the 650MWe reactor at Cernavoda 1 to secure its operation for 30 years.

Romania is also planning to complete Cernavoda 3&4, and SNN has signed a memorandum of understanding with China General Nuclear Power to set up a joint venture to oversee construction, operation and decommissioning of the units. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China agreed to finance the €6.5bn project.

Cernavoda 3&4 are to be updated versions of the Candu 6, but not the full EC6 version, as the concrete structures were already built. They will have an operating lifetime of 30 years with the possibility of a 25-year extension. SNN was planning to complete Cernavoda 5 by 2020 but is now considering new nuclear capacity at other sites.


Slovakia has four operating nuclear reactors: two each at the Bohunice and Mochovce, generating half of the country’s electricity. Three units have been closed at the Bohunice site, one of which is being decommissioned.

Two VVER reactors are under construction at Mochovce 3&4. Construction at the site began in 1986 but stopped in 1992, recommencing in mid-2009. The project has faced further delays due to complications arising from Enel’s decision to resell its stake in Slovenské Elektrárne (acquired in 2006), design changes and the need for EU stress tests following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

In 2015 Enel agreed to sell its SE equity to Czech-based energy company, Energeticky a Prumyslovy Holdings (EPH), in two stages: initially 33% then the balance on completion of the Mochovce project. In 2017 SE approved funding to complete the units. Mochovce 3 was connected to the grid in February 2018 with fuel loading scheduled for July. According to the latest schedule, Mochovce 3 should begin operation in late 2018 followed by Mochovce 4 in late 2019.


Slovenia has a shared a 727MWe Westinghouse pressurised water reactor, Krško 1, which is jointly owned by Croatia. It provides about 25% of Slovenia’s power and 20% of Croatia’s. In 2016 the two countries extended the plant’s lifespan by 20 years to 2043, subject to inspections in 2023 and 2033. Krško is owned and operated by GEN Energija, which incorporates the Slovenian stake in Nuklearna Elektrarna Krško (NEK), a joint Slovene-Croat company which operates the plant. A further Krško unit of 1100 to 1600MWe has been under consideration for some years, but there are no firm plans to date.


In 2017 nuclear power was again the generation source that contributed the most (20%) to the Spanish electricity system from seven operating reactors at five nuclear sites. Currently, nuclear power plants in Spain do not, by law, have a limited life. However, Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy in Spain has been uncertain, with the positions of the main political parties split between maintaining nuclear reactors and closing them after 40 years’ operation. The 466MW Santa María de Garoña, which started operation in 1971, was officially closed in August 2017 after the renewal of its operating licence to 2031 was denied by ministerial order despite a favourable report from the Nuclear Safety Council.


Following a string of closures, nuclear’s share in Sweden’s energy mix has fallen from approximately 50% in 2004 to 40% today. Despite a decision in 2016 to phase out a decades-old tax on nuclear power, reactors are closing prematurely. Oskarshamn 1&2 have already been retired, although plant upgrades were close to completion. Ringhals 1&2 are set to close by 2020. The current Government position is to allow existing reactors to continue, but to disallow the construction of new ones if they are not economically viable. Hence, renewables are the only option for increasing the share of clean technologies in the power mix. Sweden is currently focused on developing renewable energy and is targeting it to provide 100% by 2040.


Five reactors in Switzerland – Beznau 1&2, Gösgen, Leibstadt and Mühleberg – currently supply about 30% of Swiss electricity production but are expected to close from 2020. The Government was initially considering building two new nuclear reactors, to replace the existing units, but in June 2011 decided to gradually phaseout nuclear power by 2034. Like many other nations, Switzerland is looking to increase renewable energy’s representation in its energy portfolio. The country already relies heavily on hydropower.

United Kingdom

Fifteen reactors (10.4GW) currently provide about a fifth of the UK’s electricity. Investment has been made in life extensions of the AGR fleet, but most of the units are expected to retire by 2030 after which only Sizewell B, a 1250MW PWR, will remain in operation.

The Government has ambitious targets for 16GW of new nuclear capacity to be built by 2025. Although the schedule has slipped, the UK has a strong nuclear replacement and expansion plan. In September 2016, Government gave the go-ahead for construction of two 1.6GW EPRs at Hinkley Point C in Somerset; work is already underway. EDF and its Chinese partner, China General Nuclear, are also developing other new build proposals for further EPRs at Sizewell C, while CGN has proposed construction of its Chinese- designed HPR1000 at Bradwell B in Essex. The HPR1000 is currently undergoing the UK generic design assessment (GDA) process.

Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Hitachi, also plans to build two new Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales, and two more at Oldbury in Gloucestershire. The UK ABWR completed the GDA in 2017 and Horizon has applied for a nuclear site licence for Wylfa Newydd, which is expected to be granted later this year.

NuGeneration had aimed to develop three new AP1000 reactors at its Moorside site in Cumbria, but the project was thrust into uncertainty in early 2017 after Toshiba’s decision to leave the project and sell the company. In late 2017 South Korea’s KEPCO was revealed as the preferred bidder for NuGeneration. Progress has been made towards concluding the deal.  

Europe A 1200MW VVER-1000 is planned for Pyhäjoki in northern Finland (Photo: Fennovoima)
Europe Poland is looking to nuclear power to reduce its dependence on coal

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