Nuclear energy accounts for roughly 20 percent of U.S. electricity generation and more than 11 percent of electricity worldwide. Using nuclear power to generate electricity provides many benefits: it’s low carbon, it diversifies our electricity supply, it operates reliably on a constant basis, and it provides substantial economic benefits in communities where plants operate and to U.S. companies who supply the global nuclear industry.
Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear energy does not create greenhouse gases when generating clean, reliable baseload electricity. If all the nuclear plants operating worldwide were replaced with plants using natural gas, more than 1.3 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted into the atmosphere each year.
There are more than 440 operating nuclear power reactors worldwide, most of which use enriched uranium for fuel, including 99 reactors in the United States. Operating nuclear power reactors have a generating capacity of more than 380,000 megawatts of electric power. Thirty-one 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; France gets more than three-quarters. In Belgium, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine, nuclear provides at least 40 percent of electricity.
There are more than 60 reactors under construction in 15 countries around the world including China, Russia, India, France, Finland and Korea. In the United States, five reactors are under construction and expected to begin operations by the end of the decade.
Rising 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 or additional carbon emissions will require expanded use of nuclear power.