The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has an informative website with a mine of data that I’ve wanted to extract for some time. This is a first pass to try and capture some of the headlines which are: deployment of nuclear power has in the past depended upon a combination of three factors 1) the size and level of technology development of any country (the leading producers in 2015 were the USA, France, Russia and China) 2) the desire to acquire nuclear weapons that may be linked to large advanced countries wanting to defend themselves and 3) a shortage of fossil fuels (France, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia etc. have the greatest penetration of nuclear in power generation). Let’s begin by looking at the 30 countries that have domestic nuclear power capacity (Figure 1).
Figure 1 The distribution is heavily skewed with only 5 countries producing over 100 billion nuclear kWh in 2015 (USA, France, Russia, China and S Korea). Clearly these five countries dominate the nuclear power landscape. In fact the USA and France produced 1.2 PWh between them in 2015, 51% of the global total. Looking at the other countries on the list we see that it is dominated by OECD and the FSU with only one African nation (S Africa), two S American nations (Brazil and Argentina) and two Islamic nations (Pakistan and Iran) on the list. And of course India is in there too. Data extracted from this table on the WNA web site.
The list reflects the historic and current desire to acquire nuclear weapons (USA, France, Russia, China, UK, India, S Africa, Pakistan ± Iran), combined with the level of technology and educational development in any of these countries to run a nuclear power program. But it is clear that many of these countries could develop nuclear weapons if they wished to do so. 9 out of 29 have already done so.
There are currently 436 operational reactors, with 59 under construction and 172 planned.
Producing a similar plot, but this time ranking countries according to the percentage of electricity derived from nuclear power, produces a rather different and interesting picture.
Figure 2 Ranking countries according to the percent of electricity produced from nuclear power produces this rather interesting distribution that may be viewed as the level of nuclear power commitment. There are five clear groups, six including the zeros. If anyone would like to comment on why this should be so then please do so. France is clear leader with 76.3% of its electricity produced by nuclear power in 2015. This is followed in group 2 (50 to 60%) by Ukraine, Slovakia and Hungary (FSU / E Europe). Group 3 (30 to 40%) has 9 countries, 4 of which are formerly linked to the Soviet Union. Group 4 (10 to 20%) is dominated by the OECD, including the USA, the UK and Germany. Note that relative to Figure 1, the USA, Russia and China are all severely demoted to groups 4 and 5.
We can conclude that looking at absolute production and relative production of nuclear power that two or more major forces are at work.
- For absolute production, it is size of economy, technology development, and military / nuclear weapons ambition.
- For relative production it is whether or not you had indigenous fossil fuels. In Figure 2, France through Spain (14 of 29 countries) all have little to no oil, gas and coal.
- And the secondary variable for relative production is whether or not your were in the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union.
- In south Asia, there is a separate competition for nuclear supremacy between India, Pakistan and Iran.
And so let us look to the future. Figure 3 ranked similar to Figure 1, this time on generating capacity, includes new capacity under construction and new planned capacity.
Figure 3 Countries ranked by installed 2015 generating capacity with capacity under construction and planned overlaid.
There are five key observations to be made from Figure 3.
- China, Russia, S Korea, India and Pakistan are the only countries seriously planning near term expansion of their nuclear power capacity.
- Belarus and the UAE are the only non-nuclear countries actively building reactors and set to join the nuclear club. Belarus is a member of the FSU. Oil rich UAE, the most interesting newcomer must surely value nuclear power more than oil, which is currently burned to generate electricity.
- Japan in is in a state of nuclear schizophrenia, with most of its giant nuclear fleet stationary, it has reactors under construction and even more planned.
- The OECD in general has a tepid response to nuclear renewal (excluding S Korea). The USA and the UK are dipping their toes in the water.
- There are 9 countries, Bangladesh to Vietnam planning to join the civilian nuclear power club .
It was not easy to find the current fleet decommissioning schedule on the WNA website so it is not possible for me to produce any kind of nuclear forecast right now. All I can conclude is that nuclear power is enjoying a very patchy and stuttering renaissance mainly in China, Russia, South Korea and India. The first three of these countries are all vendors of new nuclear power plant technology.
[09:30 Friday 22 July: Commenter jfon picked up that Brazil was omitted from the charts. The charts have now been updated to include Brazil giving a total of 30 nuclear countries]