Nuclear reactor is utilized for generating electricity in power plants. The energy produced from the continuous fission of atoms in nuclear reactor is harnessed as heat and is further utilized to produce steam. The steam is utilized to drive the turbines which then generate electricity. Power produced through nuclear reactors accounts for a reasonable share of the total electricity produced across the globe. In nuclear power plants, no combustion of any material takes place and no harmful gas is produced such as carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, which pollutes the environment.
Currently, there are more than 400 nuclear power reactors operating in the world. In the year 2012 they contributed around 2600 billion kWh, about 12% of the total electricity produced in the world. At present, more than 70 power reactors are being constructed in numerous countries such as Russia, China and South Korea. Each year, the International Energy Agency sets out the target for carbon reduction.
Numerous OECD and non-OECD countries are expected to install extra nuclear power plants, though there may be some delays in terms of safety standards as existing and new power plants are reviewed. Worldwide, nuclear power capacity is estimated to rise in the new policy scenario. In the current scenario, IEA projects the share of coal in total electricity to decrease from 40% to 30% by 2035.
It is notable that in the last decade, more than 200 power reactors started up with an average of one in every 20 days. These included 45 in the U.S., 40 in France and 20 in Japan. However, with India and China getting up to speed its nuclear energy, world energy demand is expected to double by 2020. Increase in nuclear capacity in various countries is resulting from the up gradation of its existing nuclear plants. This is a highly cost effective way of increasing its capacity. Numerous power reactors in countries such as Belgium, Germany and Sweden have increased their generating capacity.
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On an average, nuclear power plants had a life of 20 to 30 years, but some assessments have established that they can operate for many more years. In U.S, more than 60 reactors have been granted license to extend their operating lives from 30 out to 50 years. The economic and technical feasibility of replacing important reactor components, such as steam generators and pressure tubes in heavy water reactors has been demonstrated successfully.
On the other side, regulatory, political and economic considerations have led to the closure of some power reactors before their life span, especially in the U.S, where reactor numbers have decreased from 125 to 1117. Growing population and emerging economies are some of the key drivers of the nuclear reactor market. However, difficulty in procuring raw material for generating nuclear energy can hamper the growth of the market. Large amount of opportunities are there for nuclear reactor market as demand for electricity is increasing at a rapid rate in Asia Pacific countries such as India and China.