Last year’s Annual Report dealt extensively with the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan and the global impact on nuclear power programmes which resulted from government-mandated reviews of design, site selection, and safety of operating and planned nuclear power stations.
With the marked exception of Japan itself, and Germany which announced the immediate closure of eight of its 17 operating nuclear power plants, the world’s nuclear power programmes are now operating normally and the foreshadowed growth in nuclear power is reassured.
Global nuclear power continues to recover from the Fukushima nuclear accident resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011.
As of May 2013, 435 reactors (374,524 Mwe) are classified as "operable" down from 443 reactors (377,750 Mwe) immediately prior to Fukushima. This decrease reflects the four damaged Japanese reactors as well as light older reactors shut-down in Germany.
Importantly, 66 reactors are currently under construction worldwide, an increase of four reactors prior to the accident. Likewise, the number of commercial reactors classified as "On Order or Planned" total 160, as compared to 158 in March 2011.
In Japan, all nuclear power plants were progressively taken offline as they became due for periodic maintenance and inspection and, only two plants owned by Kansai Electric Power Company, Ohi reactors numbers 3 and 4, have been brought back into service. The Japanese Government announced plans to overhaul the national nuclear regulatory system with the formation of a new, independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) as part of a process to reestablish trust and integrity in the safety of the country’s reactors in anticipation of further re-starts, which are essential to overcome the significant electricity shortages experienced during the summer.
Japan's NRA published proposed nuclear safety guidelines in January 2013 with final speculations expected July 2013. At that time, Japanese nuclear utilities will file for reactor-specific safety evaluations, a necessary first step for re-establishing operations. Several reactors are expected to recommence commercial operations by the end of 2013 and 75-80% of nuclear capacity could return to commercial operations by 2015-2016.
Nuclear Power Today
In Europe the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group has completed its extensive peer review and stress tests for all nuclear power plants in the EU with a generally favourable outcome.
Apart from the policy decision taken by Germany to accelerate its phase-out of nuclear power by closing eight reactors immediately, no reactors in Europe have been shut down. Belgium and Switzerland have adopted qualified nuclear phase-out policies which are unlikely to have any near term effect on their nuclear programmes.