Nuclear power capacity able to supply roughly 60 million homes is scheduled to close this decade as utilities struggle to replace northwest Europe’s ageing reactors, raising the risk of higher carbon emissions as fossil fuels plug the gap.
Nuclear power provides around a quarter of the European Union’s electricity generation, with 15 of the 27 nations hosting 107 reactors that provide total capacity of around 100 gigawatts (GW).
For Britain, which left the European Union at the end of January, nuclear provides around 20% of electricity, and the Conservative government has vaunted the energy form’s role in curbing global warming.
But 90 of Europe’s reactors are at least 31 years old as of December 2020, data from this year’s World Nuclear Industry Status Report showed. On average, they were designed to last 40 years.
Precise data on decommissioning is hard to obtain as plans can be revised as economics change. Consultancy Timera Energy says that by 2030, regulatory timetables show around 29 GW of nuclear closures in seven European countries (Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain).
Assuming some plants will get extensions, Timera estimates around 21 GW of that capacity will be taken offline.