Nuclear energy statistics


Data from February 2019

Planned update: February 2020


Highlights

Nuclear plants generated around 25 % of the electricity produced in the EU in 2017.

In 2017, 14 EU countries had operational nuclear reactors: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Electricity generation from nuclear plants in the EU increased by 5 % between 1990 and 2017.

Infographic: Production of nuclear heat, thousand toe
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

This article provides recent statistics on nuclear energy in the European Union (EU). The production of electricity in nuclear plants within the EU-28 countries peaked at 1 008.4 thousand gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2004, then slowly decreased to 829.7 thousand GWh in 2017. In 2017, nuclear plants generated around 25.1 % of the electricity produced in the European Union, with nuclear reactors operating in 14 Member States. While data for nuclear electricity generation are available from 1990 onwards, data for the rest of variables indicated in this article are only available from 2009 onwards.

Full article

Nuclear heat and gross electricity production

The production of nuclear heat is considered in energy statistics as the energy source for nuclear energy, i.e. the total amount of heat obtained from the fission of nuclear fuels in nuclear reactors. This heat is subsequently used for the production of electricity or for other useful applications of heat. In 2017, there were nuclear reactors in operation in 14 EU Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There are no nuclear facilities in the other EU Member States. The total production of nuclear heat in the EU-28 in 2017 was 210 725 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), a decrease of 10.0 % compared with 2009.

Table 1: Production of nuclear heat, ktoe
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

The main use of nuclear heat is the production of electricity. The gross electricity generation from nuclear plants within the EU-28 Member States in 2017 was 829.7 thousand GWh, a 5.1 % increase compared with 1990, equivalent to an average increase of 0.19 % per year. However, two different trends can be distinguished over this period. From 1990 to 2004, the total amount of electricity produced in nuclear facilities in the EU-28 increased by 26.9 %, reaching a peak of 1 008.4 thousand GWh in 2004. Then between 2004 and 2017, the total production of nuclear power in the EU-28 decreased by 17.2 % (see Table 2).

Table 2: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, GWh
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_peh)

The largest producer of nuclear power within the EU-28 in 2017 was, by far, France, with a 48.0 % share of the EU total, followed by Germany (9.2 %), the United Kingdom (8.4 %), Sweden (7.9 %) and Spain (7.0 %). These five Member States account for more than 80.6 % of the total amount of electricity generated in nuclear facilities in the EU-28 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, GWh
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_peh)

From 1990 to 2017, most of the countries operating nuclear facilities increased their production of nuclear electricity: Czechia (+125.2 %), Slovenia (+36.0 %), France (+26.8 %), Slovakia (+25.3 %), Hungary (+17.2 %), Finland (+17.0 %), the United Kingdom (+14.7 %), Spain (+6.9 %), Bulgaria (+6.0 %) and Romania (which started operation of its nuclear facilities in 1996). The remaining countries decreased their production of nuclear electricity, with Lithuania recording the most significant decrease as it ceased operation of its nuclear facilities in 2009, followed by Germany (-49.6 %), Sweden (-3.6 %), the Netherlands (-2.8 %) and Belgium (-1.1 %).

Enrichment capacity

Uranium found in nature consists largely of two isotopes, uranium-235 (U-235) and uranium-238 (U-238), with around 0.7 % of the total being U-235 and the remaining 99.3 % mostly the U-238 isotope. U-238 does not contribute directly to the fission process (though it does so indirectly by the formation of fissile isotopes of plutonium). In order to obtain suitable nuclear fuel, it is necessary to proceed to an isotope separation to concentrate (‘enrich’) the U-235 isotope, from 0.7 % to 3-5 %.

The enrichment capacity refers to the quantity of separative work units that could be enriched within a year by the operational enrichment plants (isotopic separation of uranium) and is measured in tonnes of separative work units (tSWU).

Only four Member States operated enrichment plants in 2014: Germany, the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, bringing the total enrichment capacity of the European Union to 21 500 tSWU in 2017 (see Table 3).

Table 3: Enrichment capacity, tSWU
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes

Production and production capacity of fresh fuel elements

The annual production of finished fresh fuel elements in nuclear fuel fabrication plants refers to the step following enrichment in the nuclear fuel cycle, which is the process in which the nuclear fuel is manufactured in order to be utilized in nuclear power reactors. The production capacity of fresh fuel elements refers to the annual production capacity of fuel fabrication plants.

Rods or other partial products are not included. Fabrication plants producing MOX (mixed oxide) fuel are also excluded (MOX plants reprocess the spent fuel to extract the remaining uranium and plutonium from the fission products and other actinides; the reprocessed uranium and plutonium is then reused in the reactors). Production and production capacity of fresh fuel elements are measured in tonnes of heavy metal (tHM).

Only six Member States produced fresh fuel elements in 2017: Germany, Spain, France, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom (see Table 4 and Figure 2), with an overall decrease from 2009 to 2017 of 17.6 % in the EU. Belgium recorded the largest decrease in production of fresh fuel elements as it stopped its production in 2012, followed by Germany (-47.0 %), the United Kingdom (-19.9 %) and Spain (-14.0 %). The remaining countries increased their production, with France being, by far, the country which increased the most (+48.7 %), followed by Sweden (+8.4 %) and Romania (+8.0 %).


Table 4: Production of fresh fuel elements, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes


Figure 2: Production of fresh fuel elements, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

Most Member States maintained or increased their capacity to produce fresh fuel elements during the period 2009-2017 (see Table 5). The exceptions are Belgium (which reduced its capacity to zero) and the United Kingdom (which reduced its capacity by 87.2 %). Since 2012, France reported the highest capacity to manufacture nuclear fuel in the European Union.

Table 5: Production capacity of fresh fuel elements, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes

Production and production capacity of MOX fuel elements

This section refers to the annual production and production capacity of finished fresh fuel elements in MOX (mixed oxide) fuel fabrication plants. Rods or other partial products are not included. The production and production capacity of MOX fuel elements are measured in tHM.

As shown in Table 6, only three countries produced MOX fuel elements in 2009: Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. However, the United Kingdom stopped its production in 2010 and Belgium in 2015. France is the only remaining Member State with a MOX production capacity (150 tHM) in 2017 (see Table 7).

Table 6: Production of MOX, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes


Table 7: Production capacity of MOX, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes

Production and production capacity of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants

This section refers to the annual production and production capacity of uranium (U) and plutonium (Pu) in reprocessing plants, measured in tHM. Reprocessing consists of recovering fissile and fertile materials from used nuclear fuel in order to provide fresh fuel for existing and future nuclear power plants. The process of reprocessing used nuclear fuel allows the recovery of unused uranium and plutonium from the original fuel and reduces the volume of material to be disposed of as high-level waste.

As shown in Table 8, only two Member States operate nuclear reprocessing plants in the European Union: France and the United Kingdom.

Table 8: Production of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes

France increased its production of U and Pu in reprocessing plants by 5.8 % from 2009 to 2017, while the United Kingdom increased its production by 16.0 %. Production capacity remained constant for both countries, at 1 250 tHM for France and 2 100 tHM for the United Kingdom (see Table 9).

Table 9: Production capacity of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants, tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc), See country codes

Annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements

Burnup refers to the extent to which nuclear fuel is consumed in a reactor and is a measure of how much energy is extracted from a primary nuclear fuel source. It can be measured as the actual energy released per mass of initial fuel in gigawatt-days per tonne of heavy metal (GWd/tHM). The increase of fuel burnup leads to a reduction in the volume of spent fuel discharged and longer fuel cycles in the reactor. The annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements is the calculated average of the burnup of the fuel elements which have been definitively discharged from the nuclear reactors during the concerned reference year. It excludes fuel elements which are temporarily discharged and are likely to be reloaded again later.

Table 10 shows the annual average burnup for the EU-28 countries in the period 2009-2017. As stated above, 14 Member states operated nuclear facilities in 2017. The Member State with the highest burnup in 2017 was Slovakia (55.8 GWd/tHM), followed by Germany (52.0 GWd/tHM), Belgium (49.9 GWd/tHM), Bulgaria (49.3 GWd/tHM), Spain (49.1 GWd/tHM), Finland (47.2 GWd/tHM) and Sweden (47.1 GWd/tHM). Countries with the lowest average burnup in 2017 were Romania (7.3 GWd/tHM), the United Kingdom (32.1 GWd/tHM estimated) and France (44.9 GWd/tHM).

Table 10: Annual average burnup of definitively discharged irradiated fuel elements, GWd/tHM
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Data on annual nuclear energy statistics and data on the production of electricity have been used for all calculations. The most recent data available are for 2017. Data are available for all 28 EU Member States. In general, data are complete, recent and highly comparable across countries. This results in high accuracy.

Context

The basis for nuclear energy in Europe was laid in 1957 by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The sector represents an important source of electrical energy, since nuclear power stations currently produce around a third of the electricity consumed in the European Union. It is up to each Member State to decide whether or not to pursue the option of nuclear power.

In June 2013, the European Commission proposed an amendment (COM(2013) 715 final) of the existing Directive establishing a framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations (Council Directive 2009/71). Among its many objectives the proposal aims to: set up an EU system of peer reviews for nuclear installations; increase transparency on nuclear safety matters; and establish new provisions for on-site emergency preparedness and response.

In order for the energy statistics system to assist political decision-making by the European Union and its Member States and promote public debate which includes citizens, it must afford guarantees of comparability, transparency, flexibility and ability to evolve. For these reasons, statistics on nuclear energy were incorporated in Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 on energy statistics, as amended by the Commission Regulation (EU) No 147/2013, as regards the establishment of a set of annual nuclear statistics and the adaptation of the methodological references according to NACE Rev. 2, which sets the framework for the production, transmission, evaluation and dissemination of nuclear energy statistics. This Regulation states that statistics concerning the civil use of nuclear energy must be transmitted annually by Member States to Eurostat.

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Energy statistics - quantities (t_nrg_quant)
Primary production of energy by resource (ten00076)
Gross inland energy consumption by fuel type (tsdcc320)


Energy statistics - quantities (nrg_quant)
Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quanta)
Energy infrastructure and capacities (nrg_inf)
Nuclear energy facilities (nrg_inf_nuc)
Energy statistics - quantities (nrg_quant)
Energy statistics - quantities, annual data (nrg_quanta)
Energy indicators (nrg_ind)
Gross and net production of electricity and derived heat by type of plant and operator (nrg_ind_peh)