Notes from the 2023 NN Reference Section

March 21, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

This year marks the 25th year that ANS's Nuclear News magazine has published its Reference Section, which features a world list of nuclear power plants, maps showing worldwide plant locations, tables with information on U.S. plant renewals, and international data tables and graphics. What follows are interesting tidbits that Nuclear Newswire has picked up from this year's Reference Section, which was published in the March NN.

From the Reference Section
Five power reactors started commercial operations around the world in 2022 and five more closed, leaving the total number of operable nuclear power reactors in this 25th Annual Reference Section at 434, the same as the year before. What’s more, that number is just one more than the 433 power reactors listed in the 1st Annual Reference Section back in 1999. But make no mistake, plenty has changed over 25 years. Read on.

Ups and downs

While 2022 yielded no net change in operable reactors, the last 25 years have seen that number swing up, down, up—and yes, back down again, ranging from 430 recorded in 2014 to 448 in 2019, as this graph shows. Because each Reference Section records changes that happened during the previous year, it is in 2012 that you can see the net loss of nine reactors during 2011 in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

China makes waves

China went from 18th place to 3rd in total operating nuclear capacity from 1999 to 2023 by bringing 50 power reactors to commercial operation during that 25-year span, continuing and expanding its new-build program following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011. No Chinese power reactors have been permanently closed, and Qinshan I-1 received China’s first license extension in 2021.

Entrances and exits

Since 1999, four countries have been removed and six have been added to the World List of Nuclear Power Plants. One—North Korea—was added and then removed just six years later when the international assistance program behind a planned project was ended.

The last four countries to be added—Turkey, Belarus, Bangladesh, and Egypt—all made it to the list after signing contracts for VVERs supplied by Russia. Only one out of those 12 planned VVERs has reached commercial operation so far.

Which country will leave the list next? Smart money is on Germany. It’s less clear which of the dozen or so countries considering nuclear power will be added next, but Poland and Estonia have a fair chance after reaching preliminary agreements with Westinghouse and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, respectively.

Global shares

The top 15 countries by total net MWe of operable nuclear capacity in this year’s Reference Section are displayed in a bar graph below. Together, with 21 countries grouped as “other,” they represent all 391.6 GWe of operable capacity listed in this issue.

The same 15 countries are also displayed in the same order with their capacity in 1999 (and 19 countries are grouped as “other”). It’s easy to spot China’s dramatic growth in capacity—and Germany’s loss. Take a closer look and you’ll see significant shifts for Japan, Russia, and South Korea, as well.

The 1999 graph represents total global capacity that was just 89 percent of the 2023 total. The increase in global capacity over 25 years accounts for most of the relative loss of global capacity share for the United States. Thanks to power uprates, the U.S. registered only about 1.5 GW less capacity in 2023, despite a net loss of 12 operating reactors since 1999.

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