Nuclear energy statistics

From Statistics Explained

Data from February 2014. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article provides recent statistics on nuclear energy in the European Union (EU), according to the Regulation 1099/2008 on energy statistics, as amended by the Commission Regulation 844/2010 of 20 September 2010 (article 8 and Annex B, 3.4).

The production of electricity in nuclear plants within the EU-28 countries peaked at 1 008.4 million gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2004, then slowly decreased to 882.4 million GWh in 2012. In 2012, nuclear plants generated around 30 % of the electricity produced in the European Union, with nuclear reactors operating in 14 Member States.

Table 1: Production of nuclear heat, thousand toe
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a), see List of country codes
Table 2: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, GWh
Source: Eurostat (nrg_105a)
Figure 1: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, EU-28, 1990-2012, GWh
Source: Eurostat (nrg_105a)
Table 3: Enrichment capacity, tSWU
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 4: Production of fresh fuel elements, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Figure 2: Production of fresh fuel elements, EU-28, 2009-2012, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 5: Production capacity of fresh fuel elements, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 6: Production of MOX, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 7: Production capacity of MOX, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 8: Production of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 9: Production capacity of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)
Table 10: Annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements, GWd/tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_333a)

Main statistical findings

Nuclear heat and gross electricity production

The production of nuclear heat is the total amount of heat generated by nuclear reactors for the production of electricity or for other useful applications of heat. In 2012, there were nuclear reactors in operation in 14 EU Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There are no nuclear facilities in the other EU countries, nor in Iceland or Norway.

The total production of nuclear heat in the EU-28 in 2012 was 224 539 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), a decrease of 4.1 % compared with 2009 (see Table 1).

The main use of nuclear heat is the production of electricity. The gross electricity generation from nuclear plants within the EU-28 countries in 2012 was 882.4 million GWh, an 11 % increase compared with 1990, equivalent to an average increase of 0.5 % per year. However, two different trends can be distinguished over this period. From 1990 to 2004, the total amount of electricity produced in nuclear facilities in the EU-28 increased by 23.0 %, reaching a peak of 1 008.4 million GWh in 2004 . Then between 2004 and 2012, the total production of nuclear power in the EU-28 decreased by 12.5 % (see Table 2[1]).

The largest producer of nuclear power within the EU-28 in 2012 was, by far, France, with a 48.2 % share of the total, followed by Germany (11.3 %), the UK (8.0 %), Sweden (7.3 %) and Spain (7.0 %). These five Member States account for more than 80 % of the total amount of electricity generated in nuclear facilities in the EU-28 (see Figure 1).

From 1990 to 2012, most of the countries operating nuclear facilities increased their production of nuclear power, some of them significantly: the Czech Republic (+141.0 %), France (+35.4 %), Slovakia (+28.7 %), Finland (+19.6 %), Slovenia (+19.5 %), Hungary (+15.0 %), Spain (+13.3 %), the Netherlands (+11.8 %) and Romania (which started operation of its nuclear facilities in 1996), while others showed a more moderate increase: Bulgaria (+7.6 %) and the UK (+7.1 %). The rest of the countries decreased their production of nuclear power, with Germany recording the most significant decrease in absolute terms (-53 008 GWh), followed by Lithuania (-17 033 GWh) which ceased operation of its nuclear facilities in 2009. Other countries which reduced their production of nuclear power within the same period were Sweden (-4 148 GWh) and Belgium (-2 427 GWh).

Enrichment capacity

Uranium found in nature consists largely of two isotopes, uranium-235 (U-235) and uranium-238 (U-238), with around 0.7 % of the total being U-235 and the remaining 99.3 % mostly the U-238 isotope. U-238 does not contribute directly to the fission process (though it does so indirectly by the formation of fissile isotopes of plutonium). In order to obtain suitable nuclear fuel, it is necessary to proceed to an isotope separation to concentrate (‘enrich’) the U-235 isotope, from 0.7 % to 3-5 %.

The enrichment capacity refers to the annual separative work capacity of operational enrichment plants (isotopic separation of uranium) and is measured in tonnes of separative work units (tSWU).

Only four Member States operated enrichment plants in 2012: Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, bringing the total enrichment capacity of the European Union to at least 12 300 tSWU, which is the sum of available countries (see Table 3).

Production and production capacity of fresh fuel elements

The annual production of finished fresh fuel elements in nuclear fuel fabrication plants refers to the step following enrichment in the nuclear fuel cycle, which is the process in which the nuclear fuel is manufactured in order to be utilized in nuclear power reactors. The production capacity of fresh fuel elements refers to the annual production capacity of fuel fabrication plants.

Rods or other partial products are not included. Fabrication plants producing MOX (mixed oxide) fuel are also excluded (MOX plants reprocess the spent fuel to extract the remaining uranium and plutonium from the fission products and other actinides; the reprocessed uranium and plutonium is then reused in the reactors). Production and production capacity of fresh fuel elements are measured in tonnes of heavy metal (tHM).

Only seven Member States produce fresh fuel elements: Belgium, Germany, Spain, France, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom (see Table 4 and Figure 2). Belgium recorded the largest decrease in production of fresh fuel elements from 2009 to 2012 (-91.8 %), followed by the United Kingdom (-19.2 %) and Romania (-7.9 %). France was, by far, the country which increased the most its production of fresh fuel elements from 2009 to 2012 (+58.6 %), followed by Sweden (+8.0 %) and Spain (+4.9 %). Data for Germany are confidential.

Member States maintained their capacity to produce fresh fuel elements during the period 2009-2012 (see Table 5), with the exception of Spain (which increased its capacity by 25 %). In 2012, France had the highest capacity to manufacture nuclear fuel in the European Union (1 400 tHM), followed by Germany (650 tHM) and Sweden (600 tHM).

Production and production capacity of MOX fuel elements

This section refers to the annual production and production capacity of finished fresh fuel elements in MOX (mixed oxide) fuel fabrication plants. Rods or other partial products are not included. The production and production capacity of MOX fuel elements are measured in tHM.

As shown in Table 6, only three countries produced MOX fuel elements in 2009: Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. However, the United Kingdom stopped its production in 2011. France was the country with the highest production of MOX (150 tHM) in 2012, making full use of its entire capacity (see Table 7).

Production and production capacity of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants

This section refers to the annual production and production capacity of uranium (U) and plutonium (Pu) in reprocessing plants, measured in tHM. Reprocessing consists of recovering fissile and fertile materials from used nuclear fuel in order to provide fresh fuel for existing and future nuclear power plants. The process of reprocessing used nuclear fuel allows the recovery of unused uranium and plutonium from the original fuel and reduces the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste.

As shown in Table 8, only two countries operate nuclear reprocessing plants in the European Union: France and the United Kingdom.

France increased its production of U and Pu in reprocessing plants by 10.1 % from 2009 to 2012, and the UK by 14.0 %. Production capacity remained constant for both countries, at 1 250 tHM for France and 2 100 tHM for the UK (see Table 9).

Annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements

Burnup refers to the extent to which nuclear fuel is consumed in a reactor and is a measure of how much energy is extracted from a primary nuclear fuel source. It can be measured as the actual energy released per mass of initial fuel in gigawatt-days per tonne of heavy metal (GWd/tHM). The increase of fuel burnup leads to a reduction in the volume of spent fuel discharged and longer fuel cycles in the reactor. The annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements is the calculated average of the burnup of the fuel elements which have been definitively discharged from the nuclear reactors during the concerned reference year. It excludes fuel elements which are temporarily discharged and are likely to be reloaded again later.

Table 10 shows the annual average burnup for EU-28 countries in the period 2009-2012. As stated above, 14 Member states operated nuclear facilities in 2012. The country with the highest burnup in 2012 was Bulgaria (48.7 GWd/tHM), followed by Slovakia (47.8 GWd/tHM), Belgium (47.4 GWd/tHM) and France (44.1 GWd/tHM). Countries with the lowest average burnup in 2012 were Romania (7.2 GWd/tHM), the United Kingdom (29.4 GWd/tHM) and the Czech Republic (29.6 GWd/tHM).

Data sources and availability

Data on annual nuclear energy statistics and data on the production of electricity have been used for all calculations. The most recent data available are for 2012. Data are available for all 28 EU Member States. In general, data are complete, recent and highly comparable across countries. This results in high accuracy. However, confidentiality of some data is a limitation as regards the EU aggregate figures.

Context

The basis for nuclear energy in Europe was laid in 1957 by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The sector represents an important source of electrical energy, since nuclear power stations currently produce around a third of the electricity consumed in the European Union. It is up to each Member State to decide whether or not to pursue the option of nuclear power.

In June 2013, the European Commission proposed an amendment (COM(2013) 715 final) of the existing Directive establishing a framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations (Council Directive 2009/71). Among its many objectives the proposal aims to: set up an EU system of peer reviews for nuclear installations; increase transparency on nuclear safety matters; and establish new provisions for on-site emergency preparedness and response.

In order for the energy statistics system to assist political decision-making by the European Union and its Member States and promote public debate which includes citizens, it must afford guarantees of comparability, transparency, flexibility and ability to evolve. For these reasons, statistics on nuclear energy were incorporated in the Commission Regulation 844/2010 of 20 September 2010 amending Regulation 1099/2008 on energy statistics, as regards the establishment of a set of annual nuclear statistics and the adaptation of the methodological references according to NACE Rev. 2, which sets the framework for the production, transmission, evaluation and dissemination of nuclear energy statistics. This Regulation states that statistics concerning the civil use of nuclear energy by Community countries must be transmitted annually by Member States to Eurostat.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Publications

Main tables

Energy statistics - quantities (t_nrg_quant)
Primary production of nuclear energy (ten00080)

Database

Energy statistics - main indicators (nrg_indic)
Annual nuclear statistics (nrg_ind_333a)
Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quant)
Energy statistics - supply, transformation, consumption (nrg_10)
Supply, transformation - nuclear energy - annual data (nrg_104a)
Supply, transformation, consumption - electricity - annual data (nrg_105a)
Energy statistics - quantities, monthly data (nrg_quantm)
Energy statistics - supply, transformation, consumption (nrg_10m)
Supply, transformation - nuclear energy - monthly data (nrg_104m)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

External links

Notes

  1. This table has been built up by adding the following four indicators: Gross electricity generation Autoproducer CHP plants (Nuclear) + Gross electricity generation Autoproducer electricity only (Nuclear) + Gross electricity generation Main activity CHP plants (Nuclear) + Gross electricity generation Main activity electricity only (Nuclear).
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