Nuclear power plant with sunflower field in Czech Republic Europe

Energy outlook & nuclear energy as of October 2023

This article carries on the tradition that begun in October 2008 and presents the results of energy consumption in the world and Spain in 2022, as well as data of and forecasts for the fleet of nuclear power plants—updated as of October 2023.

After overcoming the situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 triggered an energy crisis in Europe, leading to significant uncertainty in the world economy, which still persists, with significant variations in the prices of energy products and an escalation of inflation, which the measures taken by the different international organizations have not yet been able to mitigate definitively.

In 2022, global primary energy consumption reached 604.04 EJ, which amounts to a growth of almost 1.4%, renewable energies standing out with a 7.5% rate. Five countries represented more than half of all global demand: China (26.4%), the U.S. (15.9%), India (6.0%), Russia (4.8%), and Japan (3.0%). EU-27 countries as a whole accounted for 13.2% of total demand and, among them, Spain for 1.0%. Fossil fuels were still the most demanded energy source, representing 81.8% of total demand, led by oil, which accounted for 31.6% of said total.

Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose again relative to 2021, reaching 34,374 Mt, which amounts to a 1% growth (5.4% in the EU-27). The five aforementioned countries with the highest energy consumption were behind more than 60% of all emissions. However, the world nuclear fleet in operation prevented the emission of more than 2,000 Mt of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to almost 6% of all emissions released throughout the year. This made it, for another year, the second carbon-free energy source after hydropower.

In 2022, there were 419 nuclear reactors in operation in 33 countries, which outputted 2,544 TWh. This figure represents 4% of global primary energy consumption and over 10% of the world’s electricity consumption. In the EU-27, nuclear power was responsible for 25% of all electricity produced.

According to data from PRIS-IAEA, in October 2023 there were 58 reactors under construction in 17 countries, which amounted to 60,207 MW of net power. China (22 units), India (8) and Turkey (4) stood out among them. 17 countries have plans to build 112 new reactors (for about 110,000 MW)—mostly in China, India, Russia, and Canada—and 30 countries have proposals for another 318 (352 GW).

The energy policies of the governments of 18 countries, which follow different approaches, provide for the continued operation of their existing nuclear power plants (193 reactors have been authorized to operate for 40+ years; most of them for 60 years, and six—in the U.S.—even for 80 years).

In 2022, Spanish GDP grew 5.5% and primary energy consumption 0.7%, whereas electricity demand decreased by 2.4%. Spanish nuclear power plants outputted 55,983 GWh net, that is, 20.26% of all energy produced in the country (almost the same percentage as in 2021). Nuclear power is the only technology that has been producing in excess of 20% for twelve consecutive years, with KPIs around 90%. Only four reactors underwent planned refueling and maintenance outages in 2022 versus six in 2021.

In June 2023, the Spanish government submitted a revision of its 2021-2030 National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC)—which had been approved in March 2021—to the European Commission, which is expected to approve it in June 2024. This plan raises greenhouse gas emission reduction targets to 32% by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and to 81% for the share of renewables in electricity production.

This new version of the Plan does not change what had already been laid down in 2021-2030 PNIEC about the seven reactors that make up the Spanish nuclear fleet remaining in operation until 2027 and the installed nuclear capacity being cut approximately in half by 2030, after which only three units—which, as per the Protocol of Intentions agreed in March 2019, will be phased out until 2035—will remain in operation.

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