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Global nuclear power output drops 7% in 2012: status report

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Global nuclear power output drops 7% in 2012: status report

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Global electricity generation from nuclear dropped 7% in 2012 and is down nearly 12% from 2006's peak of 2,660 TWh, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, which was published Thursday.

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The report, published by Mycle Schneider Consulting, looks at nuclear reactor units in operation and under construction.

As of July 1, 427 reactors were in operation across 31 countries around the world, with a combined installed capacity of 364 GW.

Global nuclear capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 GW, the report said, while reactor numbers peaked in 2002 at 444.

Annual nuclear electricity generation peaked in 2006 at 2,660 TWh, dropping to 2,346 TWh in 2012.

"About three-quarters of this decline is due to the situation in Japan, but 16 other countries, including the top five nuclear generators, decreased their nuclear generation too," the report said.

The figures assume the permanent closing of 10 reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi and -Daini in Japan, adding that as of July 1, only two -- Ohi-3 and -4 -- of the 44 remaining Japanese reactors are operating "and their future is highly uncertain. In fact, even if four utilities are expected to submit restart requests in July 2013, many observers believe that a large share of the suspended Japanese units will likely never restart."

Nuclear's share in global power generation, meanwhile, has declined from a peak of 17% in 1993 to about 10% in 2012, the report said. Only one country, the Czech Republic, reached its record nuclear contribution to the electricity mix in 2012.

In the absence of major new-build programs, the unit-weighted average age of the world nuclear reactor fleet continued to increase and in mid-2013 stood at 28 years, the report said. More than 190 units (45% of the total) have operated for 30 years, of which 44 have run for 40 years or more.

Fourteen countries are building nuclear power plants, one more than a year ago as the United Arab Emirates started construction at Barrakah. The UAE is the first new country in 27 years to have started building a commercial nuclear power plant.

As of July, 66 reactors were under construction, seven more than in July 2012, with total capacity of 63 GW. The average construction time of the units as of the end of 2012 is eight years, the report said. Two-thirds (44) of the units under construction are in China, India or Russia.

Nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years. Four additional reactors have been listed for 10 years or more. The average construction time of the 34 units that started up in the world between 2003 and July 2013 was 9.4 years, according to the report.

Three new reactors started up in 2012, while six were shut. This year to July 1 one reactor has started up while four shutdown decisions, all in the US, were taken.

"Three of those four [US] units faced costly repairs, but one, Kewaunee, Wisconsin, was running well and had received a license renewal just two years ago to operate up to a total of 60 years; it simply became uneconomic to run," the report said.

In 2012, construction began on six reactors and on three so far in 2013, including on two units in the US for the first time in three and a half decades.

"Those two units have been offered over $8 billion in federal loan guarantees and other subsidies whose total rivals their construction cost, and special laws have transferred financial risks to the taxpayers and customers," the report said.

--Henry Edwardes-Evans,
--Edited by Jeff Barber,