INFOGRAPHIC: Visualizing the changing landscape in nuclear power
There’s been talk about a coming potential uranium bull market for awhile now, but here is a different look at the nuclear picture. The below visualization shows every nuclear reactor in the world by country and breaks down their timeline including construction, commercial power generation, and decommissioning. In addition, planned reactors for the future are also shown for each country.
This data visualization makes it clear where the future of nuclear is. Former nuclear stalwarts such as France, Germany, and the UK all have aging reactors with no new plants planned. Meanwhile, China and Russia do not seem to be afraid of leaning heavily on nuclear energy in the near future. In China alone, 28 or 49 reactors are under construction and there are an additional 35 planned for the future. This is despite nuclear only accounting for 2% of Chinese energy supply in 2012.
Also of note is Japan, which once relied on 29% of its energy coming from nuclear before the Fukushima accident in 2011. In recent years, Japan has cut nuclear out of their grid, although some reactors are still technically operational. To make up the difference, they have imported more natural gas and oil.
Original graphic from: Popular Science
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Nuclear’s ‘key role’ in meeting climate change challenge
11 September 2014
Meeting the energy needs of a growing global population while tackling climate change is the “biggest diplomatic challenge of the era,” according to leading climate change expert Professor Sir David King. Nuclear energy, he suggests, has a key role to play in most regions of the world to meet this challenge.
King, the UK foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told delegates during the opening session of the World Nuclear Association’s 2014 Annual Symposium today that an increasing global population will lead to “enormous new energy demand.” He said by 2030, there will be an estimated 4.5 billion middle-class people around the world, all driving demand for electricity.
However, King said, “The planet is rather exhausted by the way we used it in the 20th century … We do not have cheap commodities as a simple mechanism to regrow our economies,” he said, adding there has also been “an irreversible upward slide in oil prices.” King said there will be new challenges in the 21st century – the most important being climate change. Forecasts suggest a 4.5°C increase in global temperatures by the end of this century.
Not enough is being done to address climate change while meeting growing energy demand, King said. “Not enough has been said about what is happening in the oceans,” where increasing CO2 concentrations have raised the acidity of seawater.
The biggest threat from climate change to island nations, such as the UK, is rising sea levels and floods, he said. UK policy aims for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and defossilization of the electricity grid by 2050, as well as the electrification of the surface transport sector. The country’s energy policy calls for some 45-50% of its electricity generation to come from nuclear energy by 2050, by when electricity demand is projected to be some 120 GWe. King noted that 11 other countries have used the same model used by the UK in drawing up their policies.
King stated, “Actions are urgently needed to reduce energy use, and actions to make energy clean. One thing would be enough to make this happen: if clean energy became less costly to produce.”
He said that leading scientists are proposing a global ‘Apollo’ program to meet the challenge of climate change while producing sufficient clean energy for an expanding world population. Governments will need to be persuaded to sign up to the program, although joining would be voluntary. Countries taking part in the program would have to commit to spending 0.2% of their GDP on it. A roadmap would need to be determined to meeting the challenge, but one thing that is clear is that new-build renewable energy will need to be cheaper, King said.
Nuclear energy, King said, “has a key role to play in most regions of the world.” He added that some areas of the world with large population growth may find renewable energy sources more suitable than nuclear. For example, South Africa has a large desert area and therefore a large capacity for solar energy, he suggested. However, for other countries – such as the UK – which have high population densities and therefore not enough land for large-scale deployment of wind and solar energy, nuclear may be more suitable.
Researched and written by World Nuclear News
The value of nuclear
11 September 2014
Liberalized electricity markets fail to appreciate the value nuclear power provides as a reliable, clean and cost-effective fuel that helps keep the grid stable, Marvin Fertel of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said today.
“What we find is that nuclear energy is not necessarily treated in the way it should be from the standpoint of recognizing all of the value attributes that it is bringing to a market. And because of that we in the US shut down one plant last year, have another that will be shut down at the end of this year, and we have probably somewhere between five and ten plants at risk of shutdown in competitive markets,” Fertel said.
In June 2013 the two 30-year old PWR reactors at the San Onofre nuclear plant in California were retired permanently due to regulatory delay and uncertainty following damage in the steam generators of one unit. Two months later Entergy announced that its 635 MWe Vermont Yankee reactor would be closed down at the end of this year as it had become uneconomic. Ten other nuclear plants – comprising 13 reactors – are considered to be at risk of closure, all but one of these in the northeast of the country, in deregulated states.
“Nuclear plants provide electricity 24/7, 365 days a year. In the US they provide about 20% of our electricity, which is just under 800 billion kWh a year. For about 15 years now we have been operating a fleet-wide capacity factor of about 90%,” Fertel said. “We are seeing that nuclear plants are the foundation for our baseload capacity. It’s recognized but not appreciated and not necessarily valued the way it should be and that’s part of the battle that we have.”
Another aspect that NEI is advocating about the value of nuclear energy is price stability.
“We all hear how expensive initial capital costs [of constructing new nuclear power plants] are, but when you look at it as a 60-year life – and in America we have 40 year [operating licences] – and when you look at price, nuclear plants are very stable, both for consumers and for business,” Fertel said. “Nuclear power plants provide extremely important grid stability. Right now in competitive markets they get almost zero value for what they do and they are not known to do it until they lose it,” he said.
Nuclear facilities account for more than 60% of the USA’s non-greenhouse gas emitting generation, but the industry “gets no value for that either right now,” he said.
NEI is in talks with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the role nuclear power can play in helping the USA to meet its climate targets.
In June, the EPA called for requiring the USA’s existing power plants to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030. States will have until June 2018 to submit their final plans for complying with the rule.
“We think there is hope there, in talking with the White House, in talking with the EPA, that there is recognition of how important nuclear plants are to meet the President’s desire to reduce GHGs,” Fertel said. “We are optimistic that if the rule goes anywhere, which is questionable legally, that nuclear will be treated much better,” he said.
NEI is also calling for recognition that diversity of power supply is crucial and that the USA should not rely too heavily on shale gas.
“We have a wonderful supply of shale gas – it is relatively inexpensive, and we are producing more and more so that domestically it has become the staple to go to,” Fertel said. “We have shut down about 40,000 MW of coal plants and there will probably be another 30,000 MW that will be shut down over the next few years because of environmental requirements. They are all being replaced by gas essentially. However, overreliance on any fuel supply or technology has risk.”
Fertel cited a study issued in July by IHS – the Colorado-headquartered market and economic information provider. NEI, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the US Chamber of Commerce supported the study, titled The Value of US Power Supply Diversity.
The study compared a base case – reflecting the current generation mix in regional US power systems during the 2010-2012 period – with a reduced diversity case involving a generating mix without meaningful contributions from coal and nuclear power and with a smaller contribution from hydroelectric power along with an increased share of renewable power. The remaining three-quarters of generation in the scenario come from natural gas-fired plants.
In this comparison, IHS found that the cost of generating electricity in the reduced diversity case was more than $93 billion higher per year and the potential variability of monthly power bills was 50% higher compared to the base case, Fertel said. As a consequence, the study calculates that the typical household’s annual disposable income to be around $2100 less in the reduced diversity scenario, there would be around one million fewer jobs compared to the base case and US gross domestic product would be nearly $200 billion less, he said.
“We are using the study, not to argue against gas, but to argue for diversity,” Fertel said.
The importance of diversity was made clear last winter by the impact of the North Polar Vortex, Fertel said. Spot natural gas prices increased tenfold to more than $30/MMBtu, pushing up wholesale electricity prices to $100/MWh, he said.
“We couldn’t get gas up to New England due to limited pipelines and transmission lines,” Fertel said. That region had switched to increased use of dual fuel from plants able to generate electricity from oil and natural gas. “That’s another example where nuclear plants got very little value,” he said.
The NEI in March launched its Nuclear Matters public affairs campaign to inform key audiences about nuclear energy’s full value proposition and to raise awareness of the economic challenges to nuclear energy that threaten those benefits. Through state-based events, the campaign will reach out to stakeholders to hear directly from them about the importance of nuclear energy to their communities and to find the solutions that will help to preserve this essential energy resource.
“We could shut down plants before their value is actually appreciated by the markets that those plants are operating in. That would be tragic,” Fertel said.
The global nuclear community has “both the phenomenal opportunity and an important responsibility”, Fertel said, to provide electricity to “not only the people that currently have it, but to the two billion around the world that don’t.”
Researched and written by World Nuclear News
Red Book looks to continued growth
10 September 2014
With an increase of more than 7% in the world’s identified uranium resources over the past two years, the resource base is more than enough to meet the needs of the nuclear power sector, which is set to grow for the foreseeable future, according to the latest edition of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA)’s flagship publication.
Uranium 2014: Resources, Production and Demand is the 25th edition of the report, commonly known as the Red Book. Reflecting information current as of 1 January 2013, it features a comprehensive assessment of uranium supply and demand in 2013 as well as projections to 2035. The information is drawn from data from 45 uranium producing and consuming countries.
Increases in overall identified uranium resources have added almost ten years’ worth of reactor requirements to the existing resource base with total identified resources as of January 2013 standing at 5.903 million tU recoverable at costs of up to $130/kgU. However, the majority of those increases have been in categories with higher production costs, the report notes. Furthermore, the majority of the increases resulted from re-evaluations of previously identified resources plus additions to known deposits.
The increase in the resource base reflects a 23% increase in global expenditure on uranium exploration and mine development in the 2010-2012 period and the report suggests this may increase slightly in 2013.
Global production continued to grow, but at 7.6% the rate of the increase was slower than that reported in the previous Red Book. Overall, world production for 2012 stood at 58,816 tU and is projected to be more than 59,500 tU for 2013, principally due to increased production in Kazakshtan with smaller contributions from Australia, Brazil, China, Malawi, Namibia, Niger, Ukraine and the USA. In-situ leaching accounted for 45% of world production and is forecast to increase its domination still further, reaching 47.5% of total production in 2013.
Meeting growing demand
Despite energy policy changes in some European countries following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident, world nuclear capacity is projected to grow to between 400 GWe (in the low-case scenario) and 680 GWe (in the highest scenario) by 2035. This would result in annual reactor-related uranium requirements of 72,000 to 122,000 tU per year by 2035.
The largest increase in capacity is projected to occur in the East Asia region, with the installation of between 57 GWe and 125 GWe by 2035. Significant additions are also projected for capacity in European countries outside the European Union, the Middle East, central and southern Asia, although the authors note that China did not report official targets for nuclear power capacity beyond 2020.
The currently defined resource base is more than adequate to meet even the high case demand, but to do so will depend upon “timely investments” given the long lead time to turn an identified resource into a producing operation, the report cautions.
“Uranium miners have been hit harder by the Fukushima Daiichi accident than any other segment of the nuclear fuel cycle,” the report notes. To bring new resource to the market, “producers will have to overcome a number of significant and at times unpredictable issues … including geopolitical factors, technical challenges and risks at some facilities, the potential development of ever more stringent regulatory requirements and the heightened expectations of governments hosting uranium mining. Sufficiently robust uranium market prices will be needed to support these activities, especially in light of the rising costs of production.”
Researched and written by World Nuclear News