Generation II and III reactors
Beznau Nuclear Power Plant, Switzerland. Photo: NEA

Generation II and III reactors are currently operating all over the world, providing the largest contribution of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries. A lot of work is being done to make the most of these reactors. Increasing attention is being given to the safety of the long-term operation of these reactors. In 2020 the average age of the world nuclear reactor fleet was 30 years, with 25% having passed over 40 years of operation. An increasing number of nuclear reactor operators are therefore taking the required steps to safely extend operations beyond the 30 or 40 years of their initial operating period through long-term operation (LTO) investments. With the new standards adopted in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and with  generation III and III+ reactor construction projects around the world, there has been an overall improvement in the safety of nuclear power generation.

NEA work on this topic

Since the publication of the NEA's first report on the economics of long-term operation (LTO) in 2012, which highlighted the significant economic advantages for most countries envisaging LTO programmes, the macro-environment surrounding LTO decisions has significantly evolved. 

The NEA works to assess the role of LTO from a political, economic, technical and regulatory perspective. A methodology to evaluate the costs of LTO was defined to provide consistent and updated cost figures (overnight costs, LCOE, etc.). 

Other ongoing work seeks to assess the main opportunities to reduce the costs of new nuclear generation. In the longer term, the prospects of SMRs and the possible harmonisation of licensing regimes will also be analysed. The construction risks of nuclear new build projects are being reviewed together with potential frameworks to reduce the costs of financing.

The NEA Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle (NDC) works in this area to advise decision makers and policy makers on the state of the art and latest trends in nuclear technology.