Wednesday, 22 September 2021 09:10 GMT

Following a decade of wariness, nuclear power may be in demand again


(MENAFN- Trend News Agency) BAKU, Azerbaijan, Apr.16

By Azer Ahmadbayli - Trend:

After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, many countries, especially in Europe, decided to reconsider their attitude to nuclear energy. In Germany, for example, it was decided to close all nuclear power plants by 2022, Belgium planned to shut down its reactors by 2025, and Spain intended to do this by 2028.

Along with that, the opposite is observed in the Middle East. More and more countries, including those with large reserves of fossil fuels, show interest in the use of nuclear energy.

Each country has its own reasons and motives either for using nuclear power or abandoning it.

However, disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic have made some adjustments to the issue and prompt to re-evaluate the use of nuclear energy.

Today, mainly as a result of the halt of activities at factories and industrial enterprises, the demand for electricity in many countries has significantly decreased – from 10 to 20 percent on average.

The consequences of the falling demand can be well seen in the oil sector: prices have collapsed, storage terminals are almost overflowed, some American companies, extracting shale oil, have begun to close down, and the war for markets is ongoing.

The similar applies to gas. According to the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Fatih Birol, 'Today, most gas power plants lose money if theyare used only from time to time to help the system adjust to shifts in demand. The lower levels of electricity demand during the current crisis are adding to these pressures.'

In addition to the vulnerability of fossil fuels to low demand, the situation may also be exacerbated by an oversupply of renewable energy sources.

If electricity demand falls quickly while weather conditions remain the same, the share of variable renewables like wind and solar can become higher than normal. A very high share of wind and solar in a given moment also makes the maintenance of grid stability more challenging, Mr. Birol believes.

Today, when supply-demand balancing is being carried out in real time with the aim of providing secure electricity supplies, nuclear power demonstrates that it has certain advantages in times of significant abundance of power generation capacity.

As noted by World Nuclear Association in its release titled 'COVID-19 Coronavirus and Nuclear Energy', nuclear generation has two characteristics that will assist in maintaining supplies.

Firstly, in most reactors, fuel assemblies are used for around three years. There is therefore greater security of supply than for fossil fuel plants, which require a constant feed of coal or gas. Reloads of fuel take place every 12-18 months, and operating companies are developing strategies to focus on refueling during outages to reduce the number of staff required.

Secondly, nuclear reactors operate with high capacity factors, providing a more reliable, constant supply than some intermittent renewables, such as wind and solar.

To quote Mr. Birol again: 'Firm capacity, including nuclear power in countries that have chosen to retain it as an option, is a crucial element in ensuring a secure electricity supply.'

Along with that, nuclear power demonstrates its effectiveness in saving resources and finances during a major disaster, thanks to which attitude towards it may change again after a decade of suspiciousness.

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