Nuclear power in the Americas16 December 2020
There are 120 commercially-operating reactors spread across North and South America
The USA is home to the world’s largest nuclear fleet with 94 operating nuclear reactors spread across 29 states. Of these, 89 units are 30 years old, or older.
Two US reactors — Indian Point 2 in New York and Duane Arnold in Iowa — were permanently retired in 2020.
Indian Point 2, which closed in April after 45 years of operation, is located just 24 miles from New York City and was a major contributor to the state’s low-carbon electricity generation. Indian Point 3, a 1085MWe pressurised water reactor, is due to retire in April 2021. New natural gas power plants and efficiency measures are expected to take up the slack.
Duane Arnold was closed in August; a couple of months earlier than expected after a violent storm damaged the cooling towers at the site. The 624MWe (gross) boiling water reactor, which began commercial operation in 1975, was previously set to be decommissioned at the end of October.
There are two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors (Vogtle 3&4) under construction in Georgia, USA, scheduled to start up in November 2021 and November 2022, respectively. No further new nuclear facilities under construction, although there are plans and government support for small modular reactors (SMRs), which could be deployed as early as the late 2020s.
Canada has 19 commercial reactors operating in the eastern provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick. In Ontario, over $25 billion is being invested in refurbishing reactors at the Bruce and Darlington nuclear generating stations from 2020-2033. The first phase of this programme was completed in June when Darlington 2 was reconnected to the grid after more than a decade of planning and three years of life extension work. Refurbishment of Darlington 3 is now underway to enable the plant to continue operations until 2055.
Canada is also positioning itself to be a leader in next generation technology by developing SMRs and advanced reactors that could help emissions reduction in remote communities and mining industries (see NEI December, p42-43).
Argentina has three nuclear reactors in operation, accounting for about 5% of the country’s electricity generation. Atucha 1, a 367MW pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) is licensed to operate until 2024. Atucha 2, a 745MW PHWR, entered commercial operation in 2016.
Argentina’s third unit is a 683MW PHWR at Embalse.
In 2019, Embalse resumed operation after a three-year refurbishment programme, which extended its life for an additional 30 years.
Argentina is building a domestically-designed small modular reactor – CAREM 25. Construction of the unit was suspended in 2019, but resumed in April 2020.
Brazil has two reactors in operation at the Angra nuclear power plant located between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Angra 1, a 657MW pressurised water reactor is licensed to operate until 2024. The plant is currently undergoing life extension and pursuing a 20-year operating licence renewal. Angra 2, a 1357MW PWR, has operated at the same site since 2001. Angra 3 is currently under construction with commercial operation targeted for late 2026. Brazil has plans for further 10GW of new nuclear capacity by 2050.
Mexico has a two-unit nuclear power plant at Laguna Verde, comprising two 805MWe General Electric boiling water reactors, which went into commercial operation in 1990 and 1995. The two reactors at Laguna Verde produced 10.5TWh of electricity in 2019, accounting for some 4.5% of the country’s electricity generation.
In July, Mexico’s Ministry of Energy (SENER) has authorised the renewal of the operating licence for Laguna Verde 1 for an additional 30 years to 2050, by which time the unit will have been in commercial operation for 60 years.