Nuclear energy statistics



Data from February 2021

Planned update: February 2022


Highlights

Nuclear plants generated around 26.4 % of the electricity produced in the EU-27 in 2019.

In 2019, 13 EU-27 countries had operational nuclear reactors: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Germany, Spain, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland and Sweden.

Electricity generation from nuclear plants in the EU-27 decreased by 16.3 % between 2006 and 2019.

Nuclear energy production 2019data.PNG

This article provides recent statistics on nuclear energy in the European Union (EU).

Full article

Nuclear heat and gross electricity production

The production of nuclear heat is obtained from the fission of nuclear fuels in nuclear reactors. This heat is subsequently used for the production of electricity. The remaining heat (about 2/3 of the total) is mainly lost, except for a very small part which is used for agriculture and urban heating. The total production of nuclear heat in the EU-27 in 2019 was 196 928 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (toe), a decrease of 10.7 % compared to 2010.

Table 1: Production of nuclear heat, ktoe, 2010 to 2019
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-27 Member States in 2019 was 765 338 GWh, a 16.3 % decrease compared to 2006, or an average decrease of 1.25 % per year. However, two different trends can be distinguished over the period 1990 to 2019. From 1990 to 2004, the total amount of electricity produced in nuclear facilities in the EU-27 rose by 26.9 %, reaching a peak of 928 400 GWh in 2004, due to an increase in the number of reactors in operation. Between 2004 and 2006, total production of nuclear power in the EU-27 stabilised, before declining by 16.3 % between 2006 and 2019, mainly due to the sharp drop of some 55 % in the nuclear production in Germany (see Table 2).

Table 2: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, GWh, 1990 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_peh)

The largest producer by far of nuclear power within the EU-27 in 2019 was France, with a 52.1 % share of the EU total, followed by Germany (9.8 %), Sweden (8.6 %) and Spain (7.6 %). These four Member States produced 78.2 % of the total amount of electricity generated in nuclear facilities in the EU-27.(see Figure 1)

Figure 1: Gross electricity generation in nuclear power plants, GWh, 1990 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_ind_peh)

From 2006 to 2019, some countries increased their nuclear electricity production: Romania, which started in 1996 (+100.0 %), Hungary (+21.0 %), Czechia (+16.1 %), the Netherlands (+12.7 %), Slovenia (+4.9 %), Finland (+4.2 %). During the same period, the remaining countries (including the main producers) decreased their nuclear electricity production. Lithuania definitively shut down its nuclear facilities in 2009. Germany recorded the highest decrease (-55.0 %), followed by Slovakia (-15.2 %), Bulgaria (-15.0 %), France (-11.4 %), Belgium (-6.7 %), Spain (-3.0 %) and Sweden (-1.3 %).

Enrichment capacity

Uranium found in nature consists largely of two isotopes, uranium-235 (U-235, fissile) at 0.7 % and uranium-238 (U-238, non fissile) at 99.3 %. U-238 does not contribute directly to the fission process (though it does so indirectly by the formation of fissile isotopes of plutonium 239). Because of the small percentage of fissile material in the natural uranium, and in order to obtain suitable nuclear fuel for the pressurised water reactors (PWR, the majority in Europe), it is necessary to increase the concentration (‘enrich’) of the U-235 isotope from 0.7 % to 3-5 %. There are two possibilities: the centrifugation or the diffusion of the uranium in gaseous form (hexafluorure UF6). As a result, the natural uranium is separated into a small part of enriched uranium and a large part of depleted uranium. Only two reactors in the EU-27 (in Romania - Canadian type "CANDU") use natural uranium. This technology does not require uranium enrichment but requires the use of "heavy water" as moderator to compensate.

The standard measure, the "separative work unit", is the effort required to separate isotopes of uranium (U235 and U238) in the enrichment process: 1 tSWU is equivalent to 1 tonne of separative work unit tonnes of separative work units (tSWU).

Only three of the EU-27 Member States operated enrichment plants in 2019: Germany, the Netherlands and France, bringing the total enrichment capacity of the European Union to 16 600 tSWU (see Table 3).

Table 3: Enrichment capacity, tSWU, 2010 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

Production of fresh fuel assemblies

The fuel assembly constitutes the base element of the nuclear reactor core. The material used is the low enriched uranium (3 % to 4 % U235) produced by the enrichment plants. The standard pressured water reactor core contains about 157 fuel assemblies (depending on the reactor type). The uranium oxide (black powder) is pressed into pellets (small cylinders), then placed inside rods (tubes of about 1 cm diameter, 4 m length ) which are inserted into the basic element of nuclear fuel, the "assembly". The term "fresh fuel" indicates that it is the first use of uranium extracted from mines as opposed to the "MOX fuel" which is mainly made of recycled material. MOX (mixed oxide) assemblies are not included in this section but are covered in section "Production of MOX fuel elements".

Production of fresh fuel elements are measured in tonnes of heavy metal (tHM).

Only five of the EU-27 Member States produced fresh fuel elements in 2019: Germany, Spain, France, Romania and Sweden (see Table 4 and Figure 2), with an overall decrease from 2010 to 2019 of 14.5 %. Belgium recorded the largest decrease in production of fresh fuel elements as it stopped its production in 2012, followed by Germany (-52.4 %) and Spain (-15.3 %). The remaining three countries increased their production, with Sweden recording the largest increase (+30.8 %), followed by France (+25.1 %) and Romania (+3.5 %).


Table 4: Production of fresh fuel assemblies, tHM, 2010 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)


Figure 2: Production of fresh fuel assemblies, tHM, 2010 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

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Production of MOX fuel assemblies

The production of MOX (Mixed OXide of uranium and plutonium) assemblies is similar to the production of fresh fuel assemblies. The difference is the use of a mix of uranium oxide and plutonium oxide instead of pure uranium oxide.

The aim of using MOX is the "recycling" of the remaining uranium and the plutonium, both extracted from the spent fuel in the reprocessing plants (97 % of the nuclear material can be reused). The MOX fuel is mainly used in France representing 1/4 to 1/3 of the total core fuel in some reactors. The production of MOX fuel elements is measured in tHM (tonnes of heavy metal).

As shown in Table 5, only two EU-27 countries produced MOX fuel assemblies in 2010: Belgium and France. However, Belgium stopped its production in 2015. In 2019, France was the only remaining Member State with a MOX production capacity.

Table 5: Production of MOX, tHM, 2010 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)


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Production of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants

This section refers to the annual production 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 MOX fuel for nuclear power plants. The spent fuel, assembled in rods, is first dismantled, then cut in small pieces, before being chemically separated into uranium, plutonium and waste. 97 % of the nuclear material (U and Pu) is recycled and the remaining 3% highly radioactive waste material is vitrified and put into containers for long term storage.

As shown in Table 6, only one of the EU-27 Member States, France, operates a nuclear reprocessing plant.

Table 6: Production of uranium and plutonium in reprocessing plants, tHM, 2010 to 2019
Source: Eurostat (nrg_inf_nuc)

France increased its production of U and Pu in its reprocessing plants by 15.7 % from 2010 to 2019.

Uranium supply security

Uranium is an abundant resource on all five continents: 44 % is found in OECD countries, 22 % in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and 34 % in the rest of the world. This distribution strongly limits the geopolitical risks compared to oil supply. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the identified global resources with low extraction costs represent a century of consumption at the current rate. In addition, uranium is a stable metal, which can be stored easily without time limit. Some countries already have strategic stocks for years.

Figure 3: EU-27 Uranium supply sources in %, 2019
Source: Euratom Supply Agency

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Annual data on nuclear energy production of electricity have been used for all calculations. The most recent data available are for 2019. Data are available for all EU Member States. In general, data are complete, recent and highly comparable across countries.

Context

The basis for nuclear energy in Europe was laid in 1957 by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The initial goal was to develop the civil use of nuclear material (for medical purposes, electricity production as examples). The sector represents an important source of electrical energy, since nuclear power stations currently produce around a quarter of the electricity consumed in the European Union.

Energy statistics inform the political decision-making in the European Union and its Member States. Statistics on nuclear energy were incorporated in Regulation (EC) No 1099/2008 on energy statistics. This Regulation states that statistics concerning the civil use of nuclear energy must be transmitted annually by Member States to Eurostat . This regulation was amended several times and the last amendment (Regulation (EU) 2019/2146) entered into force on 5/1/2020. The link to the legislation page on Eurostat's website is here.

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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)