How Old Are the World’s Nuclear Reactors?
Since the advent of nuclear electricity in the 1950s, nuclear reactors have played an essential role in meeting our rising energy needs.
Nuclear reactors are designed to operate for decades and are typically licensed for 20 to 40 years, and they can last even longer with license renewals.
So, just how old is the world’s current nuclear reactor fleet?
The bubble chart above looks at the age distribution of the 422 reactors operating worldwide as of March 2023, based on data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).
The Age Distribution of the Global Reactor Fleet
Nuclear power saw a building boom in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s as countries expanded their energy portfolios and sought to capitalize on the advancements in nuclear technology.
As a result, the majority of the world’s nuclear reactors began operating during this period.
|Age Group (years)||Number of Reactors||Net Electrical Capacity (megawatts)|
Data as of March 22, 2023.
Of the total of 422 reactors, 262 reactors have been in operation for 31 to 50 years. In other words, about 62% of all current nuclear reactors were connected to the grid between 1973 and 1992.
Growth in nuclear power slowed down by the turn of the 21st century, with decreasing public support and increasing concern over nuclear safety. As a result, only a small number of reactors fall into the 11 to 20 year age group.
But over the last decade, some countries have renewed their interest in nuclear energy, while others like China have continued to expand their reactor fleets. Some 67 reactors are between zero and 10 years old, accounting for 18% of global nuclear electrical capacity.
The oldest operating reactors (five of them) are 54 years old and entered commercial service in 1969. Two of these are located in the United States, two in India, and one in Switzerland.
How Long Can Nuclear Reactors Last?
Although specific lifespans can vary, nuclear reactors are typically designed to last for 20 to 40 years.
However, reactors can operate beyond their initially licensed periods with lifetime extensions. Extending reactor lives requires rigorous assessments, safety evaluations, and refurbishments.
Some countries have granted license renewals for aging reactors. Notably, 88 of the 92 reactors in the U.S. have received approvals to operate for up to 60 years, and some have applied for additional 20-year extensions to operate for up to 80 years.
With safety concerns addressed, reactors with lifetime extensions can offer various advantages. Without the high capital investments needed to build new reactors, they can produce carbon-free electricity at low and competitive costs, which is especially important as the global power sector looks to decarbonize.
Charted: The World’s Biggest Oil Producers
Just three countries—the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Russia—make up the lion’s share of global oil supply. Here are the biggest oil producers in 2022.
Charted: The World’s Biggest Oil Producers in 2022
In 2022 oil prices peaked at more than $100 per barrel, hitting an eight-year high, after a full year of turmoil in the energy markets in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Oil companies doubled their profits and the economies of the biggest oil producers in the world got a major boost.
But which countries are responsible for most of the world’s oil supply? Using data from the Statistical Review of World Energy by the Energy Institute, we’ve visualized and ranked the world’s biggest oil producers.
Ranked: Oil Production By Country, in 2022
The U.S. has been the world’s biggest oil producer since 2018 and continued its dominance in 2022 by producing close to 18 million barrels per day (B/D). This accounted for nearly one-fifth of the world’s oil supply.
Almost three-fourths of the country’s oil production is centered around five states: Texas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Alaska, and Colorado.
We rank the other major oil producers in the world below.
|YoY Change||Share of
|2||🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia||12,136||+10.8%||12.9%|
|36||🇸🇸 South Sudan||141||-7.6%||0.2%|
|51||Other Middle East||210||+1.2%||0.2%|
|54||Other Asia Pacific||177||-10.6%||0.2%|
|55||Other S. &|
Behind America’s considerable lead in oil production, Saudi Arabia (ranked 2nd) produced 12 million B/D, accounting for about 13% of global supply.
Russia came in third with 11 million B/D in 2022. Together, these top three oil producing behemoths, along with Canada (4th) and Iraq (5th), make up more than half of the entire world’s oil supply.
Meanwhile, the top 10 oil producers, including those ranked 6th to 10th—China, UAE, Iran, Brazil, and Kuwait—are responsible for more than 70% of the world’s oil production.
Notably, all top 10 oil giants increased their production between 2021–2022, and as a result, global output rose 4.2% year-on-year.
Major Oil Producing Regions in 2022
The Middle East accounts for one-third of global oil production and North America makes up almost another one-third of production. The Commonwealth of Independent States—an organization of post-Soviet Union countries—is another major regional producer of oil, with a 15% share of world production.
|YoY Change||Share of
|South & Central|
What’s starkly apparent in the data however is Europe’s declining share of oil production, now at 3% of the world’s supply. In the last 20 years the EU’s oil output has dropped by more than 50% due to a variety of factors, including stricter environmental regulations and a shift to natural gas.
Another lens to look at regional production is through OPEC members, which control about 35% of the world’s oil output and about 70% of the world’s oil reserves.
When taking into account the group of 10 oil exporting countries OPEC has relationships with, known as OPEC+, the share of oil production increases to more than half of the world’s supply.
Oil’s Big Balancing Act
Since it’s the very lifeblood of the modern economy, the countries that control significant amounts of oil production also reap immense political and economic benefits. Entire regions have been catapulted into prosperity and wars have been fought over the control of the resource.
At the same time, the ongoing effort to pivot to renewable energy is pushing many major oil exporters to diversify their economies. A notable example is Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund has invested in companies like Uber and WeWork.
However, the world still needs oil, as it supplies nearly one-third of global energy demand.
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