Today in Energy

November 8, 2017

EIA forecasts growth in world nuclear electricity capacity, led by non-OECD countries

graph of projected nuclear capacity in the IEO2017 reference case, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2017 Reference case
Note: OECD is the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017 (IEO2017) projects that global nuclear capacity will grow at an average annual rate of 1.6% from 2016 through 2040, led predominantly by countries outside of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). EIA expects China to continue leading world nuclear growth, followed by India. This growth is expected to offset declines in nuclear capacity in the United States, Japan, and countries in Europe.

Electricity demand growth plays a central role in decisions to build new nuclear reactors and retire existing reactors. EIA expects electricity demand growth in China, India, and the Middle East to exceed growth in the United States, Europe, and Japan. EIA’s projected higher electricity demand growth for non-OECD member countries is the result of comparatively higher growth in gross domestic product and population relative to OECD member countries.

China currently has 38 operating nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 33 gigawatts (GW), including 2 GW of new capacity added in 2017 with the completion of the Fuqing-4 and Yangjiang-4 reactors. An additional 19 reactors, with a total capacity of 19.9 gigawatts (GW), are currently under construction, accounting for more than a third of all nuclear projects under construction worldwide. In total, China plans to install 58 GW of new nuclear capacity, which EIA expects to be completed by 2024. By 2032, China is expected to surpass the United States as the country with the most nuclear electricity generating capacity.

India has the world’s second-largest population, behind China, and the highest projected electricity demand growth. India currently has 22 nuclear reactors with a total of 5.3 GW of capacity, and 6 additional reactors with a combined capacity of 3.9 GW are currently under construction. India recently entered into an agreement with Russia to build two more reactors at India’s Kudankulam plant.

The United States currently operates the world’s largest nuclear fleet, with a total capacity of 100 GW from 99 reactors. However, U.S. nuclear capacity is expected to decrease to 88.2 GW by 2040, as several plants have announced intentions to retire before their scheduled license expirations. Two new reactors, Voglte Units 3 and 4, are currently under construction, while construction on V.C. Summer Units 2 and 3 has been suspended.

In Europe, construction of Finland’s 1.6 GW Olkiluoto-3 is nearing completion. The reactor is expected to begin operation in 2018 and will be Europe’s first new nuclear power station in 15 years. However, total nuclear capacity in Europe and Eurasia is expected to decline, as policy decisions to phase out or reduce the nuclear generation share in countries such as Germany and France offset new capacity in non-OECD countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Romania.

After announcing its intention to phase out all nuclear generation in response to the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan, Germany will have shut down 10 reactors by the end of 2017 and is expected to retire its last reactor in 2022. Earlier this year, France ratified a 2015 law that reduces the share of nuclear generation from 75% to 50% by 2025.

Japan currently has 42 operable reactors with a combined capacity of 39.8 GW. However, only five of these reactors have been restarted following shutdowns in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has given preliminary approval for 9 additional restart applications, with another 12 currently under review. Four reactors have already received final approval from the NRA and are expected to restart in 2018, and the remaining 12 reactors are expected to be retired by 2040.

More information is available in EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2017.

Principal contributor: Slade Johnson