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Who Is Building Nuclear Reactors?



nuclear reactors under construction by country

Who Is Building Nuclear Reactors?

Nuclear power is back in the spotlight as countries look to supplement renewable energy sources with a reliable and clean source of power.

The 2010s were a decade of decline for nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan. However, the recent push for clean energy is reviving the industry with several countries building new reactors, and others restarting or extending old ones.

The above infographic uses data from the World Nuclear Association to show the top 10 countries by nuclear capacity under construction as of July 2022.

How Many Nuclear Reactors Are In the World?

Before looking at under-construction figures, it’s important to contextualize the current nuclear reactor landscape.

There are roughly 440 nuclear reactors operating worldwide, generating around 10% of the world’s electricity annually.

CountryNumber of operable reactorsNet capacity (MWe)
U.S. 🇺🇸9395,523
France 🇫🇷5661,370
China 🇨🇳5350,034
Russia 🇷🇺3727,727
Japan* 🇯🇵3331,679
South Korea 🇰🇷2423,091
India 🇮🇳226,795
Canada 🇨🇦1913,624
Ukraine 🇺🇦1513,107
UK 🇬🇧127,343

*Only 10 of Japan’s 33 operable reactors are currently operating.

In the U.S., 93 reactors generate more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power, more than any other nation. In France, nuclear plants are the main source of power, accounting for 70% of annual electricity generation.

China’s nuclear industry has expanded rapidly over the last decade. The number of reactors in China jumped from 13 in 2010 to 53 in 2021, accompanied by a roughly five-fold increase in nuclear generation capacity.

India is an outlier—its generation capacity is lesser than the UK despite having 10 more operating reactors. This is largely because 17 of India’s 22 reactors have less than 300 MWe of capacity and are considered “small”.

Overall, around 280 of the world’s 440 reactors are over 30 years old. While these reactors are still performing at high capacity, new reactors are being built to support the aging fleet.

The Top 10 Countries Building New Reactors

The majority of new nuclear reactors are being built in Asia, with China topping the list followed by India.

CountryNumber of reactors under constructionGross Capacity Under Construction, MWe
China 🇨🇳2123,511
India 🇮🇳86,600
Turkey 🇹🇷44,800
South Korea 🇰🇷34,200
Russia 🇷🇺32,810
UK 🇬🇧23,440
UAE 🇦🇪22,800
Japan* 🇯🇵22,653
U.S. 🇺🇸22,500
Bangladesh 🇧🇩22,400
Ukraine* 🇺🇦22,178
Slovakia 🇸🇰2942
France 🇫🇷11,650
Brazil* 🇧🇷11,405
Egypt 🇪🇬11,200
Belarus 🇧🇾11,194
Iran 🇮🇷11,057
Argentina 🇦🇷129

*Reactor construction is currently suspended in Japan, Ukraine, and Brazil.

China’s reliance on nuclear power is increasing as the economy transitions away from coal. With 21 reactors under construction, the country is set to expand its nuclear capacity by more than 40% before 2030. It’s also building the world’s first commercial small modular reactor (SMR), which will have the capacity to power more than 500,000 households annually.

Following China from afar is India, with eight reactors under construction that nearly double its generation capacity. While all reactors today are powered by uranium, India has an ambitious plan to develop a thorium-fueled reactor to reap its vast resources of thorium, a non-fissile radioactive material with the potential to be used as nuclear fuel.

Overall, the Asian continent (ex-Russia) accounts for 36 of the 59 reactors under construction. Meanwhile, Turkey is building four reactors including its first operational reactor, which is expected to come online in 2023.

As of July 2022, the largest under-construction reactors are in the UK with gross capacities of 1,720 MWe each. However, this may change as new constructions start with hundreds of reactors planned for construction across the globe.

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Energy Shift

The ESG Challenges for Transition Metals

Can energy transition metals markets ramp up production to satisfy demand while meeting ever-more stringent ESG requirements?



The ESG Challenges for Transition Metals

An accelerated energy transition is needed to respond to climate change.

According to the Paris Agreement, 196 countries have already committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C. However, changing the energy system after over a century of burning fossil fuels comes with challenges.

In the above graphic from our sponsor Wood Mackenzie, we discuss the challenges that come with the increasing demand for transition metals.

Building Blocks of a Decarbonized World

Mined commodities like lithium, cobalt, graphite and rare earths are critical to producing electric vehicles (EVs), wind turbines, and other technologies necessary to burn fewer fossil fuels and reduce overall carbon emissions.

EVs, for example, can have up to six times more minerals than a combustion vehicle.

As a result, the extraction and refining of these metals will need to be expedited to limit the rise of global temperatures.

Here’s the outlook for different metals under Wood Mackenzie’s Accelerated Energy Transition (AET) scenario, in which the world is on course to limit the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times to 1.5°C by the end of this century.

MetalDemand Outlook (%) 2025203020352040
Lithium +260%+520%+780%+940%
Cobalt +170%+210%+240%+270%

Graphite demand is expected to soar 1,100% by 2040, as demand for lithium is expected to jump 940% over this time.

A Challenge to Satisfy the Demand for Lithium

Lithium-ion batteries are indispensable for transport electrification and are also commonly used in cell phones, laptop computers, cordless power tools, and other devices.

Lithium demand in an AET scenario is estimated to reach 6.7 million tons by 2050, nine times more than 2022 levels.

In the same scenario, EV sales will double by 2030, making the demand for Li-ion batteries quadruple by 2050.

The ESG Challenge with Cobalt

Another metal in high demand is cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries in smartphones and laptops and also in lithium-ion batteries for vehicles.

Increasing production comes with significant environmental and social risks, as cobalt reserves and mine production are concentrated in regions and countries with substantial ESG problems.

Currently, 70% of mined cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where nearly three-quarters of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Country2021 Production (Tonnes)
🇨🇩 Democratic Republic of the Congo120,000
🇦🇺 Australia5,600
🇵🇭 Philippines4,500
🇨🇦 Canada4,300
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea3,000
🇲🇬 Madagascar2,500
🇲🇦 Morocco2,300
🇨🇳 China2,200
🇨🇺 Cuba2,200
🇷🇺 Russia2,200
🇮🇩 Indonesia 2,100
🇺🇸 U.S.700

Around one-fifth of cobalt mined in the DRC comes from small-scale artisanal mines, many of which rely on child labor.

Considering other obstacles like rising costs due to reserve depletion and surging resource nationalism, a shortfall in the cobalt market can emerge as early as 2024, according to Wood Mackenzie. Battery recycling, if fully utilised, can ease the upcoming supply shortage, but it cannot fill the entire gap.

Rare Earths: Winners and Losers

Rare earths are used in EVs and wind turbines but also in petroleum refining and gas vehicles. Therefore, an accelerated energy transition presents a mixed bag.

Using permanent magnets in applications like electric motors, sensors, and magnetic recording and storage media is expected to boost demand for materials like neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr) oxide.

On the contrary, as the world shifts from gas vehicles to EVs, declining demand from catalytic converters in fossil fuel-powered vehicles will impact lanthanum (La) and cerium (Ce).

Taking all into consideration, the demand for rare earths in an accelerated energy transition is forecasted to increase by 233% between 2020 and 2050. In this scenario, existing producers would be impacted by a short- to medium-term supply deficit.

The ESG dilemma

There is a clear dilemma for energy transition metals in an era of unprecedented demand. Can vital energy transition metals markets ramp up production fast enough to satisfy demand, while also revolutionising supply chains to meet ever-more stringent ESG requirements?

Understanding the challenges and how to capitalise on this investment opportunity has become more important than ever.

Sign up to Wood Mackenzie’s Inside Track to learn more about the impact of an accelerated energy transition on mining and metals.

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Energy Shift

Mapped: Asia’s Biggest Sources of Electricity by Country

Asia is on its way to account for half of the world’s electricity generation by 2025. How is this growing demand currently being met?



Mapped: Asia’s Biggest Sources of Electricity by Country

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that Asia will account for half of the world’s electricity consumption by 2025, with one-third of global electricity being consumed in China.

To explore how this growing electricity demand is currently being met, the above graphic maps out Asia’s main sources of electricity by country, using data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy and the IEA.

A Coal-Heavy Electricity Mix

Although clean energy has been picking up pace in Asia, coal currently makes up more than half of the continent’s electricity generation.

No Asian countries rely on wind, solar, or nuclear energy as their primary source of electricity, despite the combined share of these sources doubling over the last decade.

 % of total electricity mix, 2011% of total electricity mix, 2021 
Natural Gas19%17%
Total Electricity Generated9,780 terawatt-hours15,370 terawatt-hours

The above comparison shows that the slight drops in the continent’s reliance on coal, natural gas, and oil in the last decade have been absorbed by wind, solar, and hydropower. The vast growth in total electricity generated, however, means that a lot more fossil fuels are being burned now (in absolute terms) than at the start of the last decade, despite their shares dropping.

Following coal, natural gas comes in second place as Asia’s most used electricity source, with most of this demand coming from the Middle East and Russia.

Zooming in: China’s Big Electricity Demand

While China accounted for just 5% of global electricity demand in 1990, it is en route to account for 33% by 2025. The country is already the largest electricity producer in the world by far, annually generating nearly double the electricity produced by the second largest electricity producer in the world, the United States.

With such a large demand, the current source of China’s electricity is worthy of consideration, as are its plans for its future electricity mix.

Currently, China is one of the 14 Asian countries that rely on coal as its primary source of electricity. In 2021, the country drew 62% of its electricity from coal, a total of 5,339 TWh of energy. To put that into perspective, this is approximately three times all of the electricity generated in India in the same year.

Following coal, the remainder of China’s electricity mix is as follows.

Source% of total electricity mix (China, 2021) 
Natural Gas3%

Despite already growing by 1.5x in the last decade, China’s demand for electricity is still growing. Recent developments in the country’s clean energy infrastructure point to most of this growth being met by renewables.

China does also have ambitious plans in place for its clean energy transition beyond the next few years. These include increasing its solar capacity by 667% between 2025 and 2060, as well as having wind as its primary source of electricity by 2060.

Asia’s Road to Clean Energy

According to the IEA, the world reached a new all-time high in power generation-related emissions in 2022, primarily as a result of the growth in fossil-fuel-generated electricity in the Asia Pacific.

With that said, these emissions are set to plateau by 2025, with a lot of the global growth in renewables and nuclear power being seen in Asia.

Currently, nuclear power is of particular interest in the continent, especially with 2022’s energy crisis highlighting the need for energy independence and security. India, for instance, is set to have an 80% growth in its nuclear electricity generation in the next two years, with Japan, South Korea, and China following suit in increasing their nuclear capacity.

The road ahead also hints at other interesting insights, specifically when it comes to hydropower in Asia. With heatwaves and droughts becoming more and more commonplace as a result of climate change, the continent may be poised to learn some lessons from Europe’s record-low hydropower generation in 2022, diverting its time and resources to other forms of clean energy, like wind and solar.

Whatever the future holds, one thing is clear: with ambitious plans already underway, Asia’s electricity mix may look significantly different within the next few decades.

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