After the devastating Fukushima disaster, some countries such as Japan and Germany made promises to end or scale down the use of nuclear power. But globally, it’s still growing.
Nuclear power is facing a future defined by conflicting trends across the world. Working against the future of nuclear plants:
- Inexpensive solar power has priced nuclear plants out of the electricity market in some locations
- Japan and Germany are phasing-out their nuclear plants due to safety and environmental concerns
At the same time nuclear power is enjoying some positive news that includes:
- Some environmental groups now support nuclear power, seeing it as a way to combat carbon emissions and climate change
- Asia is contributing to significant growth in nuclear power as energy needs there increase
In essence, nuclear power in on the rise in less-developed countries and flat or declining in the developed world.
The Economist describes the nuclear industry as experiencing a “half-death” in the developed world, due to high operating costs and competition from solar and natural gas-generated power.
Today’s Nuclear Power Landscape
- Today 30 countries actively operate 444 nuclear power plants in the world, with 60 new reactors under construction, mostly in Asia
- About 11% of the world’s electricity is generated by nuclear plants
Currently, 30 countries operate nuclear power plants, as shown on the map below:
Almost a third of all nuclear output is produced in the U.S. On their website, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has a map of all operating U.S. nuclear reactors, which are mainly situated in the eastern half of the country.
Growth is focused in Asia, where more than half of the new reactors are being built. China alone is set to build 30 nuclear reactors.
And while growth in nuclear energy output has been slow since ‘80s, it’s expected to increase by about 75% by 2030, the IAEA writes.
Nuclear Power Challenged By Solar
Cover photo by Stefan Kuhn, with modifications by Curiousmatic