25% of global clean electricity now from nuclear thanks to new UAE reactor

A new report from the World Nuclear Association shows that UAE's latest nuclear reactor has pushed the global nuclear clean electricity supply to 25 percent.
Christopher McFadden
Image of Unit 1 at the same plant.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation 

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has released a report that shows nuclear power now provides around 25 percent of the world's clean electricity needs, Arab News reported. This impressive statistic was achieved partly thanks to the firing up of Unit 3 (a South Korean APR-1400, or Korean Next Generation Reactor) at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Barakah nuclear plant.

The reactor went live in October of last year, and the three current reactors now also provide a significant chunk of UAE's energy needs.

25 percent global energy

Analysis by the WNA showed that the world’s reactors generated more than 2,500 terawatt hours of electricity for the sixth consecutive year. The Barakah nuclear power plant is located 143 miles (230 km) west of Abu Dhabi and has played a major role in compensating for the decrease in energy production in Europe. The decrease was partly due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, six reactors worldwide started producing power, including two in China and one each in Finland, Pakistan, South Korea, and one other. Construction has also started on eight reactors: five in China, two in Egypt, and one in Turkey. According to the WNA report, nuclear energy production amounted to 2,545 TWh in 2022, which is 100 TWh less than the previous year.

“The turmoil in energy markets, which had begun even before the current conflict in Ukraine sent fossil fuel prices sky high, has brought the issue of energy security to the fore, alongside the increasingly urgent requirements for rapid decarbonization to tackle climate change effectively, and the global sustainable development goal of providing access to affordable and clean energy for all,” said Sama Bilbao y León, director general of the WNA.  

This reduction was largely caused by significant events that occurred in Europe. These events included various welding repairs and outages that reduced France's generation by 81 TWh. Additionally, three of Germany's remaining six reactors were shut down at the end of 2021 and all six units at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant were closed due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Nuclear future needed

Leon is advocating for the consideration of nuclear power as a viable energy source to aid in the global transition away from fossil fuels. He believes it should be thoroughly discussed at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Dubai. “The only way for the nuclear industry to be heard is if we present a cohesive vision of the important role that nuclear energy should play in a net-zero, clean energy future,” León said.  

The UAE's inaugural nuclear power plant successfully connected Unit 1 to the grid in August 2020, followed by Unit 2 in September 2021 and Unit 3 last year.

Currently, Barakah 4 is undergoing its final operational readiness tests as of June, with plans to commence operations later this year. The plant is expected to provide 25 percent of the UAE's electricity requirements once all units are operational.

*This article has been updated following a correction from a spokesperson from the World Nuclear Association (WNA). IE had previously alluded to nuclear supplying 25% of all global energy needs, however, the WNA report refers to clean electricity.

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