New atom age?

OECD Observer

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Construction of Finland’s first nuclear reactor in three decades got under way in September 2005. When completed, the French-built third generation reactor will be the first in western Europe since 1991. Is this the beginning of a new expansion phase?

At the start of 2005, there were 352 nuclear units in operation in OECD countries, according to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. Though this was seven less a year earlier, eight units were under construction and 19 units were firmly committed, all but one in the OECD Pacific region. However, some 11 units are expected to be shut down within the next five years, six of which are in the UK, with others expected in Germany. Nuclear power plants provided 23.5% of total generated electricity to OECD countries in 2004 compared with 23% in 2003. And though overall generating capacity eased, plant generating capacity increased by almost 3 gigawatts (net) over 2003.

Meanwhile, as we reported in a recent edition of the OECD Observer, the price of uranium, the fuel for nuclear energy, has been soaring (Databank, No. 249, May 2005). This has little influence on the final retail price and can be tied to supply issues. Natural uranium production in OECD countries was projected to fall below requirements in 2005, with the remaining demand to be met by imports, stockpiles, spent fuel reprocessing and re-enrichment of depleted uranium.

©OECD Observer No 251, September 2005

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