Steady growth in nuclear generation continues

Global nuclear power generation in 2017 increased for the fifth consecutive year, reaching 2506 TWh, according to a new World Nuclear Association report. The Association says the industry is on target to meet the near-term goals of its Harmony programme.

In the World Nuclear Performance Report 2018, the Association details power generation and construction achievements for the previous year. In addition, the report features five case studies covering topics including how one of the oldest operating reactors achieved a 100% availability factor, the restart of two reactors in Japan and the construction and operation of three new reactor models in China, Russia and South Korea.

At the end of 2017 the global nuclear capacity of the 448 operable reactors stood at 392 GWe, up 2 GWe compared with the end of 2016. Four new reactors were connected to the grid, with a combined capacity of 3373 MWe. The total number of reactors under construction fell by two to 59 over the course of 2017. Five reactors – two of which had not generated electricity for some years – were shut down, with a combined capacity of 3025 MWe.

The median construction time in 2017 was 58 months, down from 74 months in 2016, and equalling the lowest five-year median construction time achieved in 2001-2005.

The capacity factor for the global fleet stood at 81% in 2017, maintaining the high availability of around 80% that has been maintained since 2000, up from the 60% average capacity factor at the start of the 1980s. “In general, a high capacity factor is a reflection of good operation performance,” World Nuclear Association said. “However, there is an increasing trend in some countries for nuclear reactors to operate in a load-following mode, resulting in lower annual capacity factors.”

The Association noted there is no significant age-related trend in nuclear reactor performance. The mean capacity factor for reactors over the last five years shows no significant variation regardless of their age, it said.

Agneta Rising, Director General of World Nuclear Association said, “There is no sustainable energy future without nuclear energy. We will need all low-carbon energy sources to work together. Nuclear capacity must expand to achieve the industry’s Harmony goal to enable nuclear energy to supply 25% of the world’s electricity demand by 2050.”

The Harmony goal will require a tripling of nuclear generation from its present level. Some 1000 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity will need to be constructed by then to achieve that goal.

“Much needs to be done to deliver the Harmony goal, but good progress has been made, both in terms of global reactor performance and new nuclear capacity additions,” Rising said. “After 2015 and 2016 each saw nearly 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity start up, a more modest 3.3 GWe was connected to the grid in 2017. However, in 2018 and 2019 more than 26 GWe of new nuclear capacity is scheduled to come online, meeting the overall target for this first five-year period.”

She added, “The pace of capacity additions required to meet the Harmony goal needs to accelerate in the next decade, eventually reaching an average of 33 GWe of new nuclear capacity added each year. Action is needed to enable this acceleration to happen.”

World Nuclear Association has identified three areas for action to achieve this: establishing a level playing field in electricity markets, building harmonised regulatory processes, and an effective safety paradigm.


Solar irrigation pumps can help India reach 38% of its green energy target

A switch from conventional diesel- and electric-powered irrigation pumps to solar-powered ones can help the country achieve 38 per cent of its envisaged 175 Gw renewable energy target by 2022.

The shift to solar-powered irrigation pumps can also save enormous sums of money and generate additional income for farmers, says a report by the US-based Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

The IEEFA report, titled ‘India: Vast Potential in Solar-Powered Irrigation’, notes that the idea of replacing some 30 million grid-attached or diesel pumps with solar pumps is gaining traction but the pace of deployment is slow.

The Government of India’s Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahaabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme and the Gujarat government’s Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) are steps in the right direction for solar-powered irrigation initiatives. The KUSUM scheme mandates deployment of 2.75 million solar pumps in the first phase of its implementation. The initiative would produce an additional 4 Gw of installed solar power, thus giving a material boost to the country’s renewable energy deployments.

“The government, to its credit, is encouraging farmers to install stand-alone, solar-powered, off-grid pumps to not only meet their irrigation needs but also to provide an extra income source from selling surplus power to distribution companies (discoms),” wrote Vibhuti Garg, an IEEFA energy economist and the author of the report.

“Considering the declining trend in prices of solar modules combined with economies of scale, IEEFA sees the all-in cost of solar-powered irrigation as a strong argument for reducing reliance on the current expensive government-subsidised model. The strategy also stands to give a strong push to the government’s ‘Make in India’ programme by stimulating domestic solar-pump manufacturing,” Garg added.

About 70 per cent of the country’s households are still dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Successful farming is driven by irrigation facilities. Only 48 per cent of the country’s net sown area is irrigated. The rest is dependent on the vagaries of nature. Demand for sustainable irrigation far exceeds the current available pumping capacity and despite the government’s announcement of various initiatives to boost deployment of solar irrigation pumps, the uptake has been slow. A robust national solar irrigation programme could successfully contribute to the country reaching its goal of 100 Gw of installed solar power capacity by 2022.

The upfront cost of solar pumps, the heavily subsidised supply of electricity to the rural sector, poor after-installation maintenance support and lack of awareness on benefits of solar power have dissuaded most farmers to shift from the conventional irrigation mode. However, solar-powered irrigation offers huge economic and environmental benefits and schemes like KUSUM and SKY are pointers to the attitudinal shift.

A significant up-scaling of solar-power irrigation would be broadly beneficial and specifically useful in providing distributed/end-of-grid generation, reducing the need for heavily subsidised electricity to the agricultural sector, and aligning solar generation with water irrigation time of use, said Garg.