The World's Nuclear Power Plants

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There are currently 451 nuclear plants in operation worldwide. 22% of them are situated in the US, generating 19% of the country's total electric energy (w807078.00 GW.h). France places second by number of nuclear power plants, with 58 plants in operation, generating 28% of the total electric energy for the country. Japan comes in third place with 48 nuclear plants

The Impact of 3 Major Nuclear Accidents

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There are currently 54 new nuclear plants under construction. These constructions can take up to 5 years, but the time required to decommission a nuclear power plant could be up to 60 years. The decommissioning of a nuclear plant is the process in which the power plant stops generating electricity and reducing the radioactivity to safe levels, the cost of which can range from 39 million dollars to 608 million dollars.

The radioactive isotope waste can disintegrate or decay into less harmless material within hours or even minutes or seconds. The new isotopes can have half-lives of anywhere from 30 years to 24,000 years, like Plutonium-239. Plutonium emits highly ionizing energy in the form of alpha radiation, the external exposition to this particle isn’t much of a health risk because they have low penetration, but the inhalation of a mere 20mg would probably kill someone within a month.

Three major nuclear accidents have influenced perceptions of nuclear power around the world:

  • The 1979 Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown in the United States.
  • The 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the USSR.
  • The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Human Perceptions To Nuclear Power


131 nuclear plants were constructed AFTER the Three Mile Island accident (between 1979 and 1985) - in 1985 the most nuclear power plants began operation; a total of 40 new power plants (7 plants in the US, 6 in France and 5 in Japan).

But, as we've seen above, after 1985 (1986 Chernobyl disaster) the number of new nuclear plants has plummeted over the following 20 years. These nuclear accidents have influenced peoples's perceptions towards nuclear power. A survey carried out before and after the earthquake that resulted in the Fukushima accident shows how people started rejecting nuclear power.

The graph below shows the attitude towards energy power before and after the Fukushima accident. The data represents the net percentage of people in favor of nuclear power (net favor = % in favor - % against). Switzerland is the country that experienced the biggest change in perceptions, from 16% to 3%. Austria has the highest percentage of people against nuclear power plants (90%).

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Latest Nuclear Power Perceptions in Europe


The following map plots the latest results of the Eurobarometer survey, in which Europeans were asked whether they agree or not on the production of electric energy from nuclear power plants. Citizens answered whether they think the electricity generated from a nuclear power plants should be:

  • A very large amount
  • A large amount
  • A medium amount
  • A small amount
  • None at all
  • I have not heard of this energy source before

The map below plots only the results from those choosing option 5, None at all, which highlights the extremely negative attitudes towards nuclear energy in countries like Iceland and Austria, with 92.2% and 79.4% respectively against.

From all countries surveyed, France has the highest number of operating nuclear power plants (58) and, unsurprisingly, has the lowest percentage of people in favor of zero generation of electricity from nuclear power (only 21%).

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Survey source: Comparative Analysis of Public Attitudes toward Nuclear Power Energy across 27 European Countries by Applying the Multilevel Model. 2018 Jaesun Wang 1 and Seoyong Kim