Nuclear Energy Returns

The first nuclear generator commissioned in the U. S. in 20 years has begun commercial operation. The Tennessee Valley Authority brought the Watts Bar 2 Reactor on line on October 19 (The Hill). Despite the long interval between plant starts, this marks the first of five nuclear reactors under construction in the United States, all of which are expected to come online by 2020.

Worldwide, according to the World Nuclear Association, about 60 nuclear power reactors are under construction with estimates of over 160 in the firm planning stages (World Nuclear). The Association estimates that well over half of the world's nuclear electricity production is generated either in North America or in the European Economic Area. However, China is pressing forward with nuclear energy at the greatest pace, far greater than in the United States. China has completed construction and commenced operation of over 30 new nuclear power reactors since 2002 with an additional 20 under construction.

This increase in activity worldwide will likely shift the power production proportion attributable to nuclear in the near future. In 2012, world electricity production found nuclear as the fourth most prominent source producing almost 11% of the world's electricity. At that point, it was behind coal, gas, and hydro, respectively. Current production schedules indicate that nuclear will surpass hydro production within a reasonably short period of time. However, electricity generated from renewable sources is continuing to grow and is expected to significantly outpace production of electricity through nuclear for the coming years. Worldwide projections estimate that by 2040, renewables will generate approximately as much electricity as coal and natural gas, all of which will significantly exceed expected production from nuclear power (U. S. Energy Information Agency).

Posted in: Nuclear Energy
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