China, India to drive global nuclear energy production: World Nuclear Association

The international trend indicates that Asia – specifically China and India – will be driving the nuclear energy production globally amidst the big economies like Germany, France and the US seeking to reduce their dependence on nuclear energy. The nuclear power generation also recorded an increase for the fifth year in a row, according to the World Nuclear Performance Report 2018.

As per the report released by the World Nuclear Association, the nuclear reactors generated a total of 2506 TWh of electricity in 2017, up from 2477 TWh in 2016. This is the fifth successive year that nuclear generation has risen, with output 160 TWh higher than in 2012.

In 2017, the total net capacity of nuclear power in operation was 394 GWe, up from 391 GWe in 2016. These figures are higher than the end of year capacity as they include those reactors that were closed during each year. The global capacity at the end of 2017 was 392 GWe, up from 390 GW in 2016. “In 2017, nuclear generation rose in Asia and East Europe and Russia. Generation declined in West and Central Europe. These changed continued the trends of recent years,” the report added.

The report is in sync with the earlier predictions by the International Energy Agency that the nuclear power production will grow by about 46 per cent by 2040 and more than 90 per cent rise will be contributed by China and India. The predictions are on expected line as the two countries with burgeoning population and economy are seeking to meet energy demands amidst shortage of fossil fuels and commitment to climate change goals.

“India and China were the two countries viewed as majorly driving the ‘nuclear renaissance phenomenon’ in 2000s, largely because their civilian programme had a set vision of growth by 2030. Both the countries are following up on their own objectives that is driven by the need to diversify energy sources etc.,” opined Hina Pandey, a nuclear expert and an Associate Fellow with the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS). She said that both the countries will continue to follow up on their civilian nuclear commitments. The two countries have been providing major impetus to nuclear power generation even as countries like Germany and France are cutting down on nuclear power owing to huge “anti-nuclear lobby” and not high rising power demand.

In 2017, three new reactors were added to the Chinese fleet taking the total number of operational reactors to 41, preceded by the US and France. China also marked highest nuclear power production too in 2017. Its total output registered an increase of 18 per cent or 35 TWh. Beijing plans to increase its nuclear capacities to a total of 58 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. Its present capacity is 34.5 GW.

At the beginning of 2018, India had seven reactors under construction, with a combined capacity of 4.8 GWe, including the country’s indigenously designed 700 MWe units. The country is working towards increasing the share of nuclear energy in its power matrix. In May 2017, the Indian government approved the construction of 10 PHWrs; and in March 2018, Frances’ EDF and India’s NPCIL signed an agreement setting out the framework for the construction of six EPRs in Jaitapur, Maharashtra.

Summarising the construction of the new reactors the report said that number of reactors under construction at the end of 2017 was 59. The median average constitution time for the four reactors grid connected last year was 58 months. In Asia, construction started on the first nuclear power reactor to be built in Bangladesh. Nuclear generation was boosted by the return to service of the fifth Japanese reactor, with further restarts taking place in 2018. In South Korea, a public vote lead to the resumption of construction of Shin-Kori 5. Construction was completed on the first unit at Barakah, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“With construction on more than 25 reactors scheduled to be completed in 2018 and 2019 strong progress is being made. New reactor projects are needed to maintain and accelerate global nuclear build so that nuclear generation can meet the Harmony goal of supplying 25 per cent of the world’s global electricity by 2050,” the report read. “There is no sustainable energy future without nuclear energy. To meet the growing demand for reliable, affordable and clean electricity, we will need all low-carbon energy sources to work together,” Director General of World Nuclear Association Agneta Rising said in the concluding remarks of the report.

Russia’s nuclear industry has captured a large part of global market with its diversified portfolio. “The strength of Russia’s nuclear industry is reflected in its dominance of export markets for new reactors. The country’s national nuclear industry is currently involved in new reactor projects in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Hungary, India, Iran and Turkey, and to varying degrees as a potential investor in Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Congo, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Tajikistan,” the report noted.

The Russian-built second unit of India’s Kudankulam power plant entered commercial operation in April 2017. In the same month, responsibility for unit 1 was formerly transferred from Russia’s ASE Group to the Nuclear Power Corporation of Indian Limited (NPCIL). The construction for the Unit 3&4 has begun and a framework agreement was signed between the two countries on the construction of the third stage, units 5&6.

In May 2018, Russia marked a significant milestone in the completion of construction of its first floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, with the power ship leaving Saint Petersburg to be towed to Murmansk for fuelling.