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News : International Last Updated: Dec 14, 2009 - 5:23:12 AM


Average age of world's 435 nuclear power plants is 25 years; 75% of Western Europe's plants in last half of life
By Michael Hennigan, Founder and Editor of Finfacts
Dec 11, 2009 - 5:23:03 AM

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Source: European Nuclear Society

The average age of the 435 nuclear power plants that are currently operating worldwide is 25 years and in Western Europe, 75 percent of the plants are in the last half of their operating life, according to the Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.

Ifo says the age structure differs very much in the various regions of the world. The plants are especially old in the Western industrial states. For example, 90 percent of the 104 nuclear power plants in the US are already more than 20 years old and half have been operating for more than 30 years.

In Western Europe 65 percent of the reactors are between 21 and 30 years old; a further 20 percent have been running for more than 30 years. Taking into account that the average life span of a nuclear power station is estimated by both the IEA (International Energy Agency) and the plant operators to be 40 to 50 years, this means that already 75 percent of the reactors are in the last half of their operating life.

More recent nuclear power plants are found particularly in Eastern Europe, India and East Asia. Here too are most of the reactors in the world that are under construction or planned.

If the number of active nuclear power plants is to remain constant, many new reactors will have to be built in the coming years. Given a life expectancy of 40 years, about 40 new plants will be necessary by 2015 -  - in addition to those already planned. Up to 2025, ca. 190 new reactors would have to go on line. With a planning and construction time of 15 to 25 years for a new reactor (estimate by Prognos AG in 2008), it seems difficult that these numbers will be attained.

Nevertheless, organizations such as the IEA and the IAEO (International Atomic Energy Organization) expect an increasing share of atomic energy in the worldwide energy mix. The IEA, for example, considers nuclear power to be a key component of climate policies. The goal of limiting the warming of the atmosphere to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures would be jeopardised without nuclear power, the IEA fears.

The IAEO anticipates a rise in the worldwide capacity of nuclear power plants from a current 370 GWe (gigawatt electrical) to between 437 and 542 GWe in 2020. The IAEO expects that improved international cooperation and progress in nuclear power plant technology will advance the construction of new nuclear reactors so strongly that this will more than compensate for the aging effect.

SEE: Finfacts article, Jan 10, 2008: Nuclear Power in Ireland: Government calls for a debate without a deadline to avoid having to make decision - - "Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan, has called for an urgent public debate in Ireland on nuclear energy..."

Almost two years later, the wheeze of an "urgent" debate has been quietly junked.

Today, Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader, John Gormley, who is anti-science on GM foods, fresh from the baby-step "triumph" of having a carbon tax announced in Wednesday's Budget, plans to launch his annual aspirational "Carbon Budget" today. However, the man who is battling to have a plan for a waste incinerator in his constituency junked, is not going to sail against any wind.

According to the European Nuclear Society, in September 2009, there was a total of 196 nuclear power plant units with an installed electric net capacity of 169,711 MWe in operation in Europe and 17 units with 14,710 MWe were under construction in six countries.

Country
in operation
under construction
number
net capacity MWe
number

net capacity MWe

Belgium

7

5,824

-
-
Bulgaria

2

1,906

2

1.906
Czech Repuplic

6

3,634

-
-
Finland

4

2,696

1
1,600
France

59

63,260

1

1,600

Germany

17

20,470

-
-
Hungary

4

1,859

-
-
Lithuania

1

1,185

-
-
Netherlands

1

482

-
-
Romania

2

1,300

-

-

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