What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘nuclear’ for the first time? Most people thought of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the World War II. Or even the Chernobyl disaster. But actually, there is more to nuclear than the negative image we got from those events. Here are some facts about nuclear that might change your idea about it:
- Currently, there are 441 nuclear power plants (NPP) operating in the world which generate electricity with a total capacity of 362.9 GW(e). Nuclear generates around 11% of global electricity. Thirty-two countries in the world currently use nuclear power and about the same number are considering, planning or actively working to include nuclear in their energy mix. Of the 441 operational NPPs, 250 of them have been in service for 30 years or more. When the plant reaches the end of its design life, it undergoes a safety review and an ageing assessment of its essential structures, systems, and components, in order to validate or renew its operating license for terms beyond the originally intended service period. 
- In some countries, nuclear energy is contributing more than 50% to their national electricity supply, such as: Hungary (52.7%), Slovakia (55.9%), Ukraine (56.5%), and France (76.3%). 
- After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, all Japan’s NPPs were closed or their operations are suspended for safety inspection by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority. On 10 September 2015, Sendai 1 became the first Japan’s nuclear power plant to resume full operation since the accident, followed by Senday 2 on 15 October 2015. 
- Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 led to many countries to reconsider or cancel their plans for nuclear power plants programmes, while others are stay on track. Countries which still pursue nuclear programmes and on the progress of nuclear power construction after the Fukushima accident, among others, are: China, India, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Pakistan, and Russia. As of December 2015, 68 nuclear reactors are under constructions and 45 of them were in Asia, mostly in China. 
- By displacing coal and natural gas, nuclear power has significantly contributed to climate change mitigation by avoiding nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. That is the same as taking about 500 million cars off the road, or over half of all cars in the world. [1,2]
- Nuclear power provides approximately 16.1% of electricity in Canada, while the most utilized power source is hydropower (accounts for nearly 63.3% of electricity in the country). One of its provinces, Ontario, already phased out the coal power plants in 2014. It makes Ontario the first jurisdiction in North America to completely phase out the use of coal-fired power plants .
- Brazil and Argentina are not only rivals in soccer. Both countries became the pioneers of nuclear energy development in South America. Argentina has 3 NPP units, generating a total of 1632 MW(e) which supplies 4.8% of national electricity, while Brazil has 2 NPP units, generating 1884 MW(e) to meet 2.8 % of electricity demand. Each country is also in the progress of constructing one nuclear reactor, to be operated in the future. 
- Some ASEAN Member States (AMS) like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand are considering nuclear power to diversify their energy mix and putting nuclear in their long-term energy planning. Malaysia established Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation (MNPC) in 2011 as a dedicated Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization (NEPIO). NEPIO’s role is to coordinate related stakeholders and develop the country’s national roadmap of nuclear power programme. Indonesia already conducted site study in the Regency of Jepara and the Island of Bangka to evaluate the sites’ potentials as locations for future nuclear power plants of Indonesia. Thailand put nuclear energy in their long-term Power Development Programme (PDP) and based on their PDP, nuclear power plants will start operating in 2035-2036. 
- All nuclear power plants have finite service period beyond which its operation is not economically viable. Early nuclear plants designed for a life of about 30 years, whereas the newer plants—with more advanced design—are expected to have 60 years of operating life. At the end of commercial operation, a power plant needs to be taken out of service, dismantled and demolished so that the site is cleared, cleaned up, and made available for other purposes. Seven reactors were permanently shut-down during 2015; 5 in Japan, 1 in the U.K and 1 in Germany, and they are in process for decommissioning. 
(Featured photo: Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. Credit: Canada Nuclear Association)
- IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) (2016), Nuclear Technology Review 2016. Available online: iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC60/GC60InfDocuments/English/gc60inf-2_en.pdf
- CNA (Canada Nuclear Association) (2015), The Canadian Nuclear Factbook 2015. Available online: cna.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/CNA-Factbook-2015-English.pdf
- WNA (World Nuclear Association) (2016), World Nuclear Performance Report 2016. Available online: world-nuclear.org/getmedia/b9d08b97-53f9-4450-92ff-945ced6d5471/world-nuclear-performance-report-2016.pdf.aspx
- ASEAN Member States (2016, November), Country Reports. Presented during Inception Meeting of ASEAN-Canada Nuclear and Radiological Programme Administrative Support (NRPAS), Tangerang, Indonesia.