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Interactive Map Details What You Need to Know About the World’s Nuclear Power Plants

Energy

From the latest crisis over plans for Hinkley Point in the UK, to today’s fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, nuclear power plants are currently much in the news.

To help provide a global overview of the nuclear power sector both today and throughout its history, Carbon Brief has produced this interactive map.

It shows the location, operating status and generating capacity of all 667 reactors that have been built or are under construction, around the world, ever since Russia’s tiny Obninsk plant became the first to supply power to the grid in 1954.

Click to go to the interactive map.

Changing Fortunes

For some, the technology has fallen out of favor. Lithuania and Italy have shut down all of their reactors. Germany’s are being phased out. All except three of Japan’s remain offline following the tsunami of March 11, 2011 and the nuclear accident that followed.

For others, nuclear offers low-carbon energy and reduced reliance on dirty, imported fossil fuels. There are now 66 reactors under construction in 16 countries, including 24 in China.

Today, there are 400 reactors operating across 31 nations. Most were built in the two decades after 1970, giving the world’s fleet an average age of 29. This average varies regionally (see below).

The total global generating capacity for nuclear power is 345 gigawatts (GW). This is down from a peak of 378GW in 2005, largely as a result of reactors being taken offline post-Fukushima.

Whereas “shutdown” reactors will remain closed, those that are “offline” could be restarted. (Where reactors in different categories are close together on the map above, their bubbles can overlap and the colours can become mixed. You can show each category in isolation by clicking on the tabs in the top right-hand corner).

Global Nuclear Power Generating Capacity

Apart from Fukushima, the nuclear industry has witnessed two other major disasters, both of which have had lasting international consequences.

Construction Delays

The first, in 1979, was at Three Mile Island in the U.S. In the decade before the accident, construction started on an average of 24 new reactors each year around the world. In the decade after, that fell to just 10.

In the wake of Three Mile Island, reactor designs were tweaked and safety specifications added. With changes applied retrospectively to reactors already under construction, there were inevitable delays and average build times increased, particularly in the U.S. itself.

Annual Capacity Additions and Construction Times

Average construction duration for reactors coming online between 1955 and 2016. The size of the bubble is proportional to the capacity added that year. Source: IAEA PRIS database and Carbon Brief analysis. Chart: Carbon Brief

More stringent safety standards and construction delays also added to costs and enthusiasm for new nuclear waned. This has been described as a case of “negative learning by doing,” with nuclear costs increasing as capacity has grown.

According to the Nuclear Energy Agency, new nuclear power stations in the UK, such as the planned Hinkley Point C plant, would be the world’s most costly.

It’s worth noting, however, that some countries have managed to keep a lid on build times, as the chart above shows. They have also limited cost increases, with South Korea reported to have reduced costs as its experience has grown. Some analysts question cost data for South Korea, arguing it is in any case an exception to the trend of rising costs.

Falling Shares

The second major disaster to hit the world’s nuclear industry was Chernobyl, which took place 30 years ago, in April 1986. The last of Chernobyl’s four reactors continued to operate for another 14 years, until 2000.

In the 25 years after Chernobyl, nuclear construction declined while global demand for electricity more than doubled. As a result, nuclear’s share of total electricity supplies peaked just shy of 18 percent in 1996 before falling to 11 percent in 2014.

Nuclear Electricity Generation

Global nuclear electricity generation (blue area, left axis) and nuclear’s share of total world power generation (red bars, right axis). Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015 and Carbon Brief analysis. Chart: Carbon Brief

According to the International Energy Agency, the rate at which new reactors are being added needs to quadruple by 2020 if the world is to meet its climate targets.

Today, the majority of the world’s reactors are concentrated in three broad regions: the eastern U.S.; Europe and the westernmost former Soviet states; and the far east (see map).

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Aging Fleet

The age distribution varies widely in each region.U.S. reactors are the world’s oldest, with an average age of 36. Those in former Soviet states and the EU average around 31 years. Note that Chernobyl was 30 years ago.

Over the past 20 years, Asia has been the leading light of the nuclear industry. In that time, it has added 51 new reactors, while the rest of the world combined has built 30. China has the world’s youngest fleet, with an average age of less than eight.

Surprisingly, perhaps, India has one of the world’s oldest operating nuclear power stations, the 47-year-old Tarapur plant. India has ambitious plans to increase its nuclear capacity as part of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Africa has just one operating nuclear power station, at Koeburg in South Africa. South America has two, one each in Argentina and Brazil. These are shown, along with Switzerland and Iran, in the chart of “other countries,” below.

Age of Currently Operating Nuclear Reactors

Average age of the nuclear reactors operating today in north America (top panel), EU nations (second panel), former Soviet states (center panel), Asia (fourth panel) and other countries (bottom panel). Other EU is Germany, Sweden, Finland, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. Other Asia is Pakistan, Taiwan and Japan. Source: IAEA PRIS database and Carbon Brief analysis. Chart: Carbon Brief

In terms of generating capacity, the world’s top nuclear powers are the U.S., France, China, Russia and South Korea. However, their age profiles differ markedly.

Asian Accelerators

Whereas western nations’ nuclear power capacities are static or declining, China’s is accelerating rapidly and set to grow further. Russia and South Korea are also expanding.

Cumulative Nuclear Capacity in Operation

Cumulative nuclear power capacity in operation in the top 10 nations between 1955 (dark blue) and 2016 (dark red). Source: IAEA PRIS database and Carbon Brief analysis. Chart: Carbon Brief

Until Fukushima, Japan was operating the third-largest capacity in the world. Nuclear is a significant part of the country’s plans to tackle climate change. Three reactors have now reopened and many more plan to follow. (Update 9/3: Since this article was published a Japanese court has issued an injunction against the restart of one of these three reactors).

In contrast, Germany responded to Fukushima by accelerating its plans to phase out nuclear power, closing eight reactors in 2011. It plans to close all reactors by 2022.

Globally, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates are in the process of joining the nuclear power club. If successful, the UK’s plans for a new generation of 19GW of reactors would make it once again one of the world’s leading nuclear nations.

Note: The interactive map and associated charts are based on an extract of data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) PRIS database, kindly provided by the IAEA. The database lists reactors as “under construction,” “operational,” “long term shutdown” or “permanent shutdown.” The PRIS category “operational” includes 41 Japanese reactors that have not generated electricity for several years. Carbon Brief has listed “long term shutdown” plants and some Japanese reactors as “offline,” based on information from the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.

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Global heating imposes a harsh cost at the most critical time of all: the moment of spawning. Pxfuel

By Tim Radford

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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Niq Steele / Getty Images

By Sherry H-Y. Chou, Aarti Sarwal and Neha S. Dangayach

The patient in the case report (let's call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs.

When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment.

We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19.

Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases.

What Is Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs when the body's own immune system attacks and injures the nerves outside of the spinal cord or brain – the peripheral nervous system. Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function.

Without the myelin sheath, signals that go through a nerve are slowed or lost, which causes the nerve to malfunction.

To diagnose Guillain-Barre Syndrome, neurologists perform a detailed neurological exam. Due to the nerve injury, patients often may have loss of reflexes on examination. Doctors often need to perform a lumbar puncture, otherwise known as spinal tap, to sample spinal fluid and look for signs of inflammation and abnormal antibodies.

Studies have shown that giving patients an infusion of antibodies derived from donated blood or plasma exchange – a process that cleans patients' blood of harmful antibodies - can speed up recovery. A very small subset of patients may need these therapies long-term.

The majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients improve within a few weeks and eventually can make a full recovery. However, some patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome have lingering symptoms including weakness and abnormal sensations in arms and/or legs; rarely patients may be bedridden or disabled long-term.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Pandemics

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, many neurologic specialists have been on the lookout for potentially serious nervous system complications such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Though Guillain-Barre Syndrome is rare, it is well known to emerge following bacterial infections, such as Campylobacter jejuni, a common cause of food poisoning, and a multitude of viral infections including the flu virus, Zika virus and other coronaviruses.

Studies showed an increase in Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases following the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, suggesting a possible connection. The presumed cause for this link is that the body's own immune response to fight the infection turns on itself and attacks the peripheral nerves. This is called an "autoimmune" condition. When a pandemic affects as many people as our current COVID-19 crisis, even a rare complication can become a significant public health problem. That is especially true for one that causes neurological dysfunction where the recovery takes a long time and may be incomplete.

The first reports of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in COVID-19 pandemic originated from Italy, Spain and China, where the pandemic surged before the U.S. crisis.

Though there is clear clinical suspicion that COVID-19 can lead to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, many important questions remain. What are the chances that someone gets Guillain-Barre Syndrome during or following a COVID-19 infection? Does Guillain-Barre Syndrome happen more often in those who have been infected with COVID-19 compared to other types of infections, such as the flu?

The only way to get answers is through a prospective study where doctors perform systematic surveillance and collect data on a large group of patients. There are ongoing large research consortia hard at work to figure out answers to these questions.

Understanding the Association Between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

While large research studies are underway, overall it appears that Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a rare but serious phenomenon possibly linked to COVID-19. Given that more than 10.7 million cases have been reported for COVID-19, there have been 10 reported cases of COVID-19 patients with Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far – only two reported cases in the U.S., five in Italy, two cases in Iran and one from Wuhan, China.

It is certainly possible that there are other cases that have not been reported. The Global Consortium Study of Neurological Dysfunctions in COVID-19 is actively underway to find out how often neurological problems like Guillain-Barre Syndrome is seen in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Also, just because Guillain-Barre Syndrome occurs in a patient diagnosed with COVID-19, that does not imply that it was caused by the virus; this still may be a coincident occurrence. More research is needed to understand how the two events are related.

Due to the pandemic and infection-containment considerations, diagnostic tests, such as a nerve conduction study that used to be routine for patients with suspected Guillain-Barre Syndrome, are more difficult to do. In both U.S. cases, the initial diagnosis and treatment were all based on clinical examination by a neurological experts rather than any tests. Both patients survived but with significant residual weakness at the time these case reports came out, but that is not uncommon for Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients. The road to recovery may sometimes be long, but many patients can make a full recovery with time.

Though the reported cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome so far all have severe symptoms, this is not uncommon in a pandemic situation where the less sick patients may stay home and not present for medical care for fear of being exposed to the virus. This, plus the limited COVID-19 testing capability across the U.S., may skew our current detection of Guillain-Barre Syndrome cases toward the sicker patients who have to go to a hospital. In general, the majority of Guillain-Barre Syndrome patients do recover, given enough time. We do not yet know whether this is true for COVID-19-related cases at this stage of the pandemic. We and colleagues around the world are working around the clock to find answers to these critical questions.

Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Reposted with permission from The Conversation.


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One of the initial reasons social distancing guidelines were put in place was to allow the healthcare system to adapt to a surge in patients since there was a critical shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment. In fact, masks that were designed for single-use were reused for an entire week in some hospitals.

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By Jake Johnson

Unity Task Forces formed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled sweeping party platform recommendations Wednesday that—while falling short of progressive ambitions in a number of areas, from climate to healthcare—were applauded as important steps toward a bold and just policy agenda that matches the severity of the moment.

"We've moved the needle a lot, especially on environmental justice and upping Biden's ambition," said Sunrise Movement co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash, a member of the Biden-Sanders Climate Task Force. "But there's still more work to do to push Democrats to act at the scale of the climate crisis."

The climate panel—co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State John Kerry—recommended that the Democratic Party commit to "eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035," massively expanding investments in clean energy sources, and "achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for all new buildings by 2030."

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Ocasio-Cortez—the lead sponsor of the House Green New Deal resolution—noted that the Climate Task Force "shaved 15 years off Biden's previous target for 100% clean energy."

"Of course, like in any collaborative effort, there are areas of negotiation and compromise," said the New York Democrat. "But I do believe that the Climate Task Force effort meaningfully and substantively improved Biden's positions."

 

The 110 pages of policy recommendations from the six eight-person Unity Task Forces on education, the economy, criminal justice, immigration, climate change, and healthcare are aimed at shaping negotiations over the 2020 Democratic platform at the party's convention next month.

Sanders said that while the "end result isn't what I or my supporters would've written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families throughout our country."

"I look forward to working with Vice President Biden to help him win this campaign," the Vermont senator added, "and to move this country forward toward economic, racial, social, and environmental justice."

Biden, for his part, applauded the task forces "for helping build a bold, transformative platform for our party and for our country."

"I am deeply grateful to Bernie Sanders for working with us to unite our party and deliver real, lasting change for generations to come," said the former vice president.

On the life-or-death matter of reforming America's dysfunctional private health insurance system—a subject on which Sanders and Biden clashed repeatedly throughout the Democratic primary process—the Unity Task Force affirmed healthcare as "a right" but did not embrace Medicare for All, the signature policy plank of the Vermont senator's presidential bid.

Instead, the panel recommended building on the Affordable Care Act by establishing a public option, investing in community health centers, and lowering prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate prices. The task force also endorsed making all Covid-19 testing, treatments, and potential vaccines free and expanding Medicaid for the duration of the pandemic.

"It has always been a crisis that tens of millions of Americans have no or inadequate health insurance—but in a pandemic, it's potentially catastrophic for public health," the task force wrote.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and Sanders-appointed member of the Healthcare Task Force, said that despite major disagreements, the panel "came to recommendations that will yield one of the most progressive Democratic campaign platforms in history—though we have further yet to go."

 

Observers and advocacy groups also applauded the Unity Task Forces for recommending the creation of a postal banking system, endorsing a ban on for-profit charter schools, ending the use of private prisons, and imposing a 100-day moratorium on deportations "while conducting a full-scale study on current practices to develop recommendations for transforming enforcement policies and practices at ICE and CBP."

Marisa Franco, director of immigrant rights group Mijente, said in a statement that "going into these task force negotiations, we knew we were going to have to push Biden past his comfort zone, both to reconcile with past offenses and to carve a new path forward."

"That is exactly what we did, unapologetically," said Franco, a member of the Immigration Task Force. "For years, Mijente, along with the broader immigrant rights movement, has fought to reshape the narrative around immigration towards racial justice and to focus these very demands. We expect Biden and the Democratic Party to implement them in their entirety."

"There is no going back," Franco added. "Not an inch, not a step. We must only move forward from here."

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

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