June 25, 2011
New Nukes Coming Online To More Than Double

Globally the rate at which new nuclear power plants get turned on to start operating will more than double from 5 to 12 per year in the next 4 years.

Assuming about five years for construction it can be expected that reactors will be coming online around 2012 at double today's rate of five per year, with this to rise to one per month around 2015.

Each nuclear reactor takes years to plan and years to build. With many nukes in the pipeline decisions taken a few in the last few years to ramp up nuclear reactor construction in China and other Asian countries are starting to be felt. The Fukushima accident is too recent to affect the pipeline of nukes under construction. A few European countries have turned against nuclear power. Japan might do so as well. But Japanese opposition to nuclear power is mixed. In Asia the Fukushima accident might have little or no impact on new nuclear reactor builds. China's still charging forward with a big nuke build. Even in Europe Lithuania so wants to cut its dependence on Russian natural gas that it is going to build a nuke.

In the United States the Tennessee Valley Authority will start operating the Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor in 2013. Its construction was halted in 1985 but is now being completed. That will be the first added nuke in the US since the 1990s. The TVA has plans for more nuclear reactors including a half dozen small modular reactors. The US government's commitment to nuclear power is undiminished and nuclear power's biggest obstacle in the US is the low cost of natural gas from shale.

The British government has just named 8 sites for new nukes aimed at replacing nukes that are nearing the ends of their operating lives.

If natural gas from shale becomes a large and cheap source of natural gas in Asia then I expect nuclear power's growth in Asia to slow and possibly even stop. But short of that possibility I still expect to see a continued large nuke build in Asia.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 June 25 11:05 PM  Energy Nuclear

Bruce said at June 26, 2011 9:41 AM:

Randall, the only reason Watts Bar may get finished is because it had a construction permit from 1973 (which has been extended twice).


I think 30 years to build is kinda slow ... but may be reality.

It would be better to build gas generating plants in a year or two than to wait 30 years. And anyone planning on building a gas plant should hurry before the EPA makes those too tough to build.

Wolf-Dog said at June 26, 2011 10:37 AM:

The future generations of reactors will be very different. The lead or gas cooled reactors, as well as the molten salt reactors will be much more self-contained and very low maintenance. This would be a game changer.

Abelard Lindsey said at June 26, 2011 10:51 AM:

The Japanese have no choice but to go nuclear. The only alternative I can think of is for them to develop the gas hydrates off their coasts. China has lots of shale gas, but the Japanese do not.

Chris T said at June 27, 2011 10:20 AM:

A few European countries have turned against nuclear power. Japan might do so as well. But Japanese opposition to nuclear power is mixed.

As Abelard said, Japan's alternatives to nuclear pretty much all suck. They also don't have the ideological environmentalism (versus pragmatic) that pervades the West (despite what many people believe, 'religious' environmentalism is a uniquely Western phenomenon and makes little sense outside of that cultural context).

Bruce said at June 27, 2011 12:48 PM:

Japan has attempted to make up for the lost nuclear with LNG ... and prices are up.


Even more nukes may end up closed in Japan.

"Last week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that it thought the global gas glut was set to disappear quickly as liquefied natural gas (LNG) consumption soared. In fact, it saw demand rising so fast it expects the market to start tightening in the second half of next year.

The comments followed news of the closure of another nuclear reactor in Japan because of safety fears. A lawsuit seeking the permanent closure of Hamaoka nuclear plant had been filed by people living close to the plant near Tokyo, which is close to the junction of two tectonic plates.

“Following the shutdown of another nuclear plant, we expect Japan’s LNG imports in 2011 to increase by up to 8.5m tonnes from 70m tonnes last year,” Merrill Lynch said."


Joseph Somsel said at June 27, 2011 3:51 PM:

Interesting that "Trains" magazine notes that US coal exports are way up, pushing our transport infrastructure capacity. One reason is increased purchases of steam coal from that greenhouse gas holier-than-thou country Germany.

During the excitement over the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the TV would have a headline "Nuke Explosion!" while showing a flaming LNG terminal. Japan really has only LNG and nuclear as practical sources of electricity. Nuclear is about breakeven at LNG at $6 a mmBTU at the terminal.

Lobo Solo said at June 27, 2011 4:29 PM:

Wolf-Dog is correct. Bringing MSRs online would be game-changer ... especially if you use thorium as the fuel source. I think, since Obama supports nuclear power, that the current NRC is a tad bit friendlier but I doubt if anyone is close enough to present a design to the NRC before Obama is voted out.

I believe that the NRC has only approved only two Gen III, one Gen III+ and no Gen IV designs which are more efficient and safer. I'm sure that TVA merely got approval to restart the design already approved for the site ... a Gen II ... In order to save time and money to get it up and running.

The biggest obstacle to nuclear power is the NRC. http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/book/chapter9.html

Randall Parker said at June 27, 2011 9:48 PM:


Shale natural gas might turn out to be a bubble. If that turns out to be the case then nukes will make a big comeback and natural gas for baseload electric power generation won't last long.

Joseph Somsel,

Yes, the Germans are going to have to burn more coal in the short term until they can build out much more expensive solar, wind, and back-up natural gas electric generators. Germany's going to have really expensive electric power. Though they'll still be able to import French nuclear power.

Bruce said at June 28, 2011 8:53 AM:

Randall, please read my comment on the "bubble" thread ... and approve the one pending.

anonyq said at June 29, 2011 4:00 PM:

Germany is an electricity exporter and the price of wind electricity is about the same as nuclear.

In said at July 1, 2011 8:15 AM:


Bruce said at July 1, 2011 9:00 AM:

anonyq, its not quite that simple.

For example, in 2007, Germany imported 33 TWh and exported 45TWh.


11TWh of those imports came from the Czech Republic (coal and nuclear).

After the shutdown of 7 nuclear plants , some days Germany imports a lot of electricity.


And there are more nuclear plants to shutdown.

"France was a net exporter of power to Germany for a second month in May after a decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to keep shut nuclear power plants.
France exported a net 956 gigawatt-hours of electricity last month to Germany, with the absolute level of exports rising 70 percent compared with the same month last year"


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