Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro

Here are some considerations on the specific energy production of nuclear and hydroelectric power plants (MWh produced per MW installed). The data are based on IEA publications comprising the top producers within each sector (2010 data).

Specific output of nuclear power plants

Fig.1 Specific output of nuclear power plants

The figures for nuclear vary between 6 and 8 GWh per MW installed capacity. Fig. 2 shows the situation for hydroelectric plants.

Fig. 2  Specific production hydro

Fig. 2 Specific output hydro

Again, the figures refer to the top producers in the world. The variations in specific output are much more pronounced for hydro than for nuclear. This variability may be due to varying water levels which tend to have a strong impact on production levels. In absolute numbers nuclear is the clear winner, outperforming even the top hydro producer Brazil.



3 comments on “Specific Energy Production – Nuclear and Hydro

  1. You are comparing apples to oranges, bananas and cherries. Nuclear units are base load, intended to run at full output when available. Hydroelectric plants have different classes. One is for base load, with the plant sized for a close match to available hydraulic energy. Some are mid load, for the lack of better term, designed at a capacity of two times or more of available energy, designed for operation during the day and off overnight. Finally, there is a class of peaking plants with a capacity of four or more times the available energy, designed for peak hour operation and/or reserve to cover generation losses until replacement sources can be started. Therefore, their energy production would never match a base load plant.

    • Nobody is comparing apples to oranges or other fruits. What I do is calculating the ratio of the annual energy production to the installed capacity for two different production modes. I am aware that there are various types of hydroelectric plants. It goes without saying that their production patterns can be very different. Likewise we have to admit that not all nuclear plants are to be treated equally. Their output, too, may vary considerably depending on maintenance periods, reactor types etc.

      My consideration was never intended to go into that much detail. On the contrary, by looking at a more global picture we may get an impression of how much production we may expect from different energy sources. That kind of knowledge is essential when it comes to planning energy strategies at national level.

      Similar considerations on renewable energies will soon follow.

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