World Nuclear Generation Stagnates

John Mulrow | Mar 11, 2010

For the second year in a row, global nuclear generating capacity has dropped slightly, reaching 370.9 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2009.1 (See Figure 1.) Just over 1 GW of capacity was added during the year, as India and Japan each connected a new plant to the grid.2 At the same time, Japan closed two reactors and Lithuania one, so there were 2,506 GW worth of shutdowns.3

While installed capacity has been virtually flat for the past five years, construction starts surged in 2009 thanks to a burst of activity in China. (See Figure 2.) Altogether, construction began on 11 nuclear power reactors in 2009, the highest number since 14 units were started in 1985.4 Some 56 nuclear reactors are now officially being built—but 13 of these have been “under construction” for more than 20 years, and 26 reactors have encountered “construction delays.”5

As noted, 3 nuclear reactors were permanently closed in 2009, bringing the total number of decommissioned units to 126, representing a retired nuclear capacity of nearly 40 GW.6 (See Figure 3.) The average age of all decommissioned reactors is 22 years.7 Hamaoka 1 and 2, the two reactors that were shut down in Japan, were originally damaged by a 2007 earthquake that struck while they were undergoing safety-related upgrades.8 The cost of seismic retrofitting of these two reactors was so high that the operator, Chubu Electric, decided to close them permanently and plans to build a single large reactor to replace them by 2018.9

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