Nuclear energy accounts for approximately 14 percent of the world’s electric power production. There are 437 operating nuclear power reactors worldwide, most of which use enriched uranium for fuel, 100 of which generate approximately 20 percent of America’s electrical power. Operating nuclear power reactors have a generating capacity of more than 374,000 megawatts of electric power.
Thirty nations rely on nuclear energy for a portion of their electricity supply. More than 10 countries derive at least a third of their electricity from nuclear power, and France gets more than three-quarters. In Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine, nuclear provides at least 40 percent of the electricity.
There are more than 70 reactors under construction in 14 countries around the world including the United States, China, Russia, India, France, Finland and Korea. In the United States, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently issued combined construction and operating licenses for two new reactors in Georgia and two new reactors in South Carolina.
Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy does not create potentially harmful greenhouse gases. If all the nuclear plants operating worldwide were replaced with fossil-fuel fired plants, as much as 500 million more tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere each year. Using nuclear is the equivalent of taking about 60 million cars off the road.
Rapidly increasing global demand for electricity will make nuclear an increasingly important source of energy in coming years. For example, China expects its need for electricity to quadruple in the next 20 years. Meeting this demand without causing extensive air pollution will require expanded use of nuclear power.