Nuclear power is set to get another boost in the UK this year as the Hinkley Point C project gets underway. But what are the largest nuclear power stations in the world right now, and how does Hinkley line up? We take a look.
1. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant
Owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant powers 16million homes alone. It’s the largest nuclear power station in the world by net electrical power rating.
However, since the tsunami of 2011 that caused Level-7 meltdowns (the most serious on the scale) in all three reactors in the Fukushima the reactors at this plant were shut down and have not been restarted since (as of July 2017). Local government and courts currently will not allow a restart until further safety improvements have been carried out.
2. Bruce Nuclear Generating Station
With a net capacity of over 6,300MWe, the second largest nuclear power station is known as Bruce. It is also the largest in the world by total reactor count. At the time of writing, it’s the actually currently the largest currently operational plant (see above).
Construction of the first section of Bruce, the A-section, began in 1969. The B-section saw its first unit come into service in 1985, and as it stands there are a total of eight across both. Other Bruce’s to occupy the site over the years have been the Bruce Heavy Water Plant (1973-1995)and the Bruce Bulk Steam System, which diverts steam from Bruce A to heat buildings across the whole of the Bruce Energy Centre (BEC).
The station derives its unusual sounding name from its location near the former Bruce Township in Bruce County. Disappointingly, neither of these places are in Australia but are in fact in Ontario, Canada.
3. Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant
The third largest nuclear power station in the world is located in Ukraine not far from the city of Enerhodar. Five of the six reactors date back to the mid to late 1980’s, with the final one being added in 1995.
Located just 200km away from the dangerous combat zone in Donbass, there have been fears raised over what might happen if an errant airstrike might damage the plant and lead to a major disaster. As of the time of writing, there have been no such incidents, although in 2014 a short-circuit shut down one of the reactors, leading to rolling blackouts across Ukraine throughout December.
4. Hanul Nuclear Power Plant (formerly, Ulchin)
Set in the Gyeongsangbuk-do province on the west coast of South Korea and cooled by the Sea of Japan, the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant has six pressurised water reators and first went online in 1988 with phase one being officially completed in 2005.
Ground was broken on a new pair of nuclear reactors at the site in 2012, with construction set to be complete in 2018. This will increase the generation capacity to over 6.1gigwatts, pushing the Hanul one place up this list, overtaking Zaporizhzhia.
5. Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant
We re-enter Europe for only the second time in this list and head to the very northern tip of France. Construction began on Gravelines in 1974 and it was officially commissioned in 1980.
It currently has a capacity of 5,706MW.
In a rare example of a nuclear power station giving something back to the environment besides power, the cooling water from the plant is used by local European seabass aquafarmers, with the warm water helping them grow faster.
So where does Hinkley Point C fit in?
The UK’s new nuclear engineering project in Somerset doesn’t make the top five, but it will be the first nuclear new build the country has seen in over 20 years. In terms of capacity, there will be two reactors at Hinkley and each will produce 1,600MWe of power, bringing the total to 3,200MWe.
The project is currently in its preparation stage and is expected to cost around £20billion to complete.
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