The energy crisis gives oxygen to the nuclear industry, despite the age of the reactors

The Kremlin’s shutdowns of gas and oil since autumn 2021, with further increases in energy prices, have disrupted the culture of nuclear hibernation that countries such as Germany and Japan have acquired since the Fukushima disaster. plant.

Japan has resumed use of its plants after a decade-long paralysis, and in Europe amnesty extends to indoor plants. France, where President Emmanuel Macron pledged to reduce the country’s nuclear dependence during his first term, has reversed course and is now building six new reactors and a dozen modular options at its plants. The United Kingdom also began production of 8 reactors and 16 modules. The erstwhile anti-nuclear Germany appears to have succumbed to realpolitk and has recently extended at least three of its operating nuclear power plants.

Ted Nordhaus and Juselle Lloyd, executive director and analyst at the Breakthrough Institute, explain on the IMF’s Energy Blog: “Nuclear restart in Europe is seen as a ray of hope in a bleak geopolitical landscape, despite progress and difficulties. Their countries embraced renewable energy because they suddenly realized their overdependence on fossil fuels.” After becoming “a green pillar of the global economy and investing billions of dollars over the past two decades in plans to install solar and wind power,” they specify that their renewable projects “have not been an alternative source of sufficient capacity to replace supply. Russian gas and oil, to prevent import of liquefied gas from the US and other regions of the planet or accelerate the flow of gas pipelines that connect it to North Africa”.

In its desperate search to accumulate gas and oil reserves to essentially supply power plants and secure its energy mix, Europe also faces an additional risk: the nuclear plants expanding across its territory are the oldest on the planet. .

This is evidenced by the latest Statista survey. Switzerland with four plants and Belgium with seven plants stand as enclaves with older plants, averaging 46.3 years Swiss and 42.3 years Belgian. Both with residual contributions to their power lines. The Americans, the first to start work in the 1950s, completed the podium, as its 92 plants accumulate an average age of 41.6 years. France (37.1 years), the second nuclear power for civilian use, and Germany (34 years) are among the top ten countries with the oldest nuclear power plants (fifth and sixth positions).

Germany’s Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, settled the row between the Greens and the Liberals over nuclear power in the coalition he supports in Berlin a few weeks ago. Nuclear will get more time as an energy source in Germany. For now, the chancellor has decided to extend the life of its three factories, which are still operating for four months, although it could be longer.

In France, where its state-owned energy company EDF is in deep crisis, several of its plants have seen a sudden corrosion process that has triggered emergency alarms. The French nuclear authorities were forced to carry out massive inspections to fully repair the reactors.

The US nuclear map boomed in the 1960s and 1970s. In the last decade of the last century, five floors were added, and in 2016, the last key was handed over. The plant, which began construction in 1978, just a year after the Three Mile Island accident, fueled public discontent with nuclear power. In 2013, two new reactors were connected to a power plant located in the town of Vogtle, Georgia, whose production may soon be connected to the US power grid, as the White House takes steps to release the last official credit. The final green light was given to the initial project, which was implemented 17 years ago.

In any case, US nuclear production capacity peaked in 2019, and since then, its civilian nuclear power has declined to represent 3.9% of its total energy mix in 2021, although it represents 18.9% of commercial power generation.

The report leaves out the nuclear industry in the 2022 Status of the World Nuclear Industry Report. For example, 2018 marked its capacity regression point, although it was in 2021, recorded last year when it was below 10% of electricity production in commercial terms for the first time: its lowest level in four decades. And it is 40% lower than the productivity of 1996.

For the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2018 was the last year when more reactors were used, both in terms of quantity (449) and energy capacity of 396.5 GW. By the end of 2021, there were 437, including 23 that stopped accessing capacity between 2010 and 2013. By the middle of this year, 411 was operating in 33 countries, 4 fewer than a year earlier and 27 fewer than in 2002.

In 2021, six new nuclear units will be connected to the grid, three of them in China, and five will start operating in 2022, two in the Asian giant. In contrast, eight reactors were shut down in 2021 and two in 2022. In the last two decades (2002-2021), 98 stations were built, fifty in China, none of which were closed, and 105 were closed. Electricity generation with nuclear energy. Sources grew by 3.9% in 2021, but it is still growing at a slower pace than in 2019. Excluding China, growth was 2.8%, at the same level as in 2017.

The Beijing regime has ordered a larger expansion of the nuclear census. 21 were under construction for half of these exercises, although their nuclear technology is exclusively in their territory. Russia is a major international power: of the 20 it builds, 17 are in foreign markets and only 3 within its borders. Although the geopolitical tensions created by the Kremlin’s decision to invade Ukraine have increased the degree of uncertainty regarding the future of his works.

In 2021, a dozen nuclear power plants with Russian technology were launched, six in China, two in India, one in Turkey and the last on Russian soil. All projects and capital expenditures are led by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation (Rosatom), which also lags behind others in Bangladesh, Turkey and Egypt, three countries that recently joined the civilian nuclear club. Outside the Russian orbit, only French and South Korean companies operate in foreign markets.

Only three countries with past civilian nuclear programs have closed all reactors: Italy in 1987, Kazakhstan in 1998, and Lithuania in 2009. On the other hand, in other latitudes such as India, which has been reducing its nuclear quota since 2019. While it accounted for 3.2% of electricity production, it has eight reactors under construction, four of them using Russian technology.

Source: El Diario

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