Global Use of Nuclear Energy
There are currently several hundred operating nuclear power plants in the world, spread over a few dozen countries, with over a hundred more “proposed” nuclear power plants (these may or may not get built, depending on economic and political factors in the relevant countries). The US still has the largest number of plants, with about 100 currently operating. France’s economy is the most dependent on nuclear energy, with more than 75% of electricity in that country coming from nuclear power plants. Countries with fleets of nuclear power are primarily wealthier nations, such as the US and European countries, but developing nations are really the biggest growth area, particularly China. Prior to the Fukushima incident, other Asian nations besides China had plans to grow their nuclear fleets, but whether that growth will materialize is highly uncertain. In response to concerns regarding the safety of nuclear power plants and waste disposal/management issues, some European countries have enacted various policies mandating the phase-out of nuclear energy, including Austria, Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. Other countries, including Spain and Switzerland, have imposed a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants. Of the countries that have decided to phase out nuclear energy, Germany has been among the most aggressive following the Fukushima incident. Because of concerns over electricity supply and costs, however, some countries have delayed or back-stepped on plans to phase out nuclear energy.