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Nuclear power remains crucial during Covid-19 pandemic18 May 2020

- Int. Energy Agency report shows nuclear power is important source of Europe's power system flexibility during COVID-19

Nuclear power plants continue to produce electricity and contribute to energy supply in many countries during the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, the International Energy Agency's (IEA) latest report showed.

The IEA's new report entitled Global Energy Review 2020 showed that global electricity demand decreased by 2.5% in the January-March period of 2020, though lockdown measures were in place for less than a month in most countries.

Global nuclear power generation fell by about 3% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019, pulled down by electricity demand reductions, the report said.

The EU also suffered from depressed electricity demand and saw the largest reduction in the first quarter of 2020.

Nonetheless, nuclear power has been an important source of flexibility for Europe’s power system, by helping to maintain electricity security through operating in a load-following mode in several countries including France, Germany, Belgium, Slovakia and Sweden.

According to the report, lower demand led to nuclear output reductions in several countries, most notably France, which has large nuclear fleets. In the country, nuclear power generation was down by 11 terawatt-hours (TWh) or 10% in the first quarter of 2020.

"Beyond adjustments to planned maintenance, several additional reactors were taken offline as demand fell," the report underlined.

In Germany, output fell by 3 TWh, or 17%, as steps are being taken towards a complete nuclear power phase-out by the end of 2022.

In the US, nuclear output in the first quarter of 2020 was down 4 TWh, or 2%, due in part to lower electricity demand linked to mild weather.

Additionally, China was one of the few regions with nuclear power growth, with a 1% increase in output between the first quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020.

- 2020 projections for nuclear power

According to the IEA's estimation, as electricity demand is set to decline by 5% this year, lockdowns will reduce global nuclear power output by 3% from 2019 levels in 2020.

This decline would be the largest not associated with a natural disaster, and 40% as large as the reduction in 2011 following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the report highlighted.

"However, a faster recovery would help nuclear power output in 2020 to decline by just over 1% compared with the 2019 total, as reactors that are in service could operate at higher load factors to meet the rebound in electricity demand," the IEA stated.


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