Nuclear reactors under construction, end of 2011. China is currently building the most reactors globally; their reactor construction times have decreased impressively, and are likely to become the fastest in the world. IAEA / IEA

The nearly 440 nuclear reactors in operation across the world remained virtually constant over the last decade, with 32 reactors shut down and the same number connected to the grid. Overall, nuclear capacity increased by more than 6%, due to installation of larger reactors and power uprates in existing reactors.

In 2010, nuclear energy was increasingly favoured as an important part of the energy mix - subject to plant life extensions, power uprates and new construction - given its competitiveness (especially in the case of carbon pricing) as an almost emissions-free energy source. Ground was broken on 16 new reactors, the most since 1985, mainly in non-OECD countries (Figure 1.10); in 2011, 67 reactors were under construction, 26 in China alone (Figure 1.12). The time length and cost of construction for nuclear power plants varies significantly by region and reactor type. Average overnight costs of generation III/ III+ reactors range from about USD 1 560/kW to USD 3 000/kW in Asia and to about USD 3 900/kW to 5 900/kW in Europe (NEA, 2010). In terms of construction time, some are built in as little as four years, whereas in rare cases, it has taken as long as 20 to 27 years to complete construction (e.g., Romania, Ukraine).

The vast majority of countries with nuclear power remain committed to its use despite the Fukushima accident, but projections suggest that nuclear deployment by 2025 will be below levels required to achieve the 2DS objectives. In addition, increasing public opposition could make government ambitions for nuclear power’s contribution to their energy supply harder to achieve.

China is currently building the most reactors globally; their reactor construction times have decreased impressively, and are likely to become the fastest in the world.

Since 2011, the earthquake and tsunami damage to the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has cast some uncertainty over the future of nuclear power. Some countries are choosing to phase out nuclear reactors; most confirmed that they are keeping nuclear in their energy mix or will develop it further, albeit at a less ambitious rate than previously anticipated (Figure 1.9; Table 1.3). In addition, countries planning to introduce nuclear power for the first time (e.g., Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines), are delaying and, in some cases revising, their plans.

IEA urges governments to seize the opportunity to accelerate clean energy deployment [pdf]

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