World Nuclear Performance Report 2022 Edition

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The report is also available in Chinese, translated in cooperation with the China Institute of Nuclear Industry Strategy (CINIS). 点击此处下载中文版,由中核战略规划研究总院(CINIS)合作翻译完成。

Director General's Preface

Nuclear generation bounced back from the pandemic-related decline seen in 2020, increasing by 100 TWh to reach 2653 TWh in 2021.

However, this positive development must be put into the context of the upheaval there has been in global energy supply over the last 12 months. While governments redoubled their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at COP26 in Glasgow, the recovery of economies following the harsh impacts of COVID-19 led to a surge in energy demand that outstripped the growth in production from clean sources such as nuclear, resulting in more reliance on fossil fuels.

The war in Ukraine has made vividly clear the fragility of the fossil fuel supply chain, underscoring concerns that were already exposed as a consequence of the pandemic. In many regions energy prices are rising, fueling inflation and worsening energy poverty. Fearful of losing access to gas imports and facing blackouts and energy shortages, governments a recalling on coal-fired power plants to restart.

While such short-term actions may be necessary in the midst of a crisis, they are unsustainable. It is therefore welcome that many governments are now realizing that nuclear energy can propel the drive to net-zero emissions and be the foundation of a more secure energy system.

The challenge now is to take the concrete actions needed to turn those policy aspirations into operating nuclear power plants. The increase in nuclear generation in 2021 flatters the fact that there has been a decline in global nuclear capacity over the last two years. In other words: more reactors are being closed down than are starting up.

To reverse this trend, two things need to happen. First, reactors that are operating successfully today need to operate for longer. Too many of the reactor closures of the last few years have been motivated by political reasons or by dysfunctional markets. Long-term operation of nuclear reactors is the lowest cost form of additional low-carbon generation and helps reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Second, the pace of new nuclear construction must increase. In 2021 first concrete was poured for ten new reactors. Although that is better than in recent years, we still need to see twenty, thirty or more new reactor construction starts per year soon, to ensure that nuclear energy plays the role it should in delivering a secure and sustainable net-zero future.

Sama Bilbao y León
Director General
World Nuclear Association

26 July 2022