How much nuclear energy contributes to the energy needs of the planet

As of 2023, nuclear power accounts for about 10% of global electricity generation

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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How much nuclear energy contributes to the energy needs of the planet

As of 2023, nuclear power accounts for about 10% of global electricity generation, and was the second-largest source of low-carbon energy after hydroelectricity. It is widespread in 32 states hosting 442 nuclear fission reactors for an installed capacity of 392.6 GW.

There are also 53 reactors under construction and 98 planned, with a capacity of 60 GW and 103 GW respectively and mainly in Asia. The United States of America has the largest number of nuclear reactors, generating more than 800 TWh of low-emissions electricity annually at an average capacity factor of 92%.

The average global capacity factor for nuclear power is 89%. Nuclear energy is one of the safest sources of energy in terms of deaths per unit of energy produced. Coal, oil, natural gas and hydroelectric power have all caused more deaths per unit of energy generated than nuclear, due to air pollution and accidents.

The most serious accident at a nuclear plant was Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986, followed by the Fukushima disaster caused by a tsunami in 2011 and the more minor Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979. There has long been a debate about nuclear energy.

Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association, argue that nuclear power is a safe and sustainable source that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Conversely, opponents, such as Greenpeace and NIRS, argue that nuclear energy poses many threats to the population and the environment and that the construction of plants is too expensive and slow compared to sustainable energy sources.

Nuclear power is regulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for promoting the peaceful use of this form of energy and preventing its use for military purposes, carrying out functions of surveillance and control over the safety of existing plants and those under construction or planning.

Nuclear energy in 2023 provided 2553 TWh of electricity, equivalent to about 10% of global production. Nuclear energy is widespread in 32 states which together host 442 nuclear reactors for an installed capacity of approximately 393 GW.

The United States of America, with 93 operational reactors, are the largest producers of nuclear energy in the world, followed by France, which with 56 active reactors covers over 70% of the national electricity requirement with nuclear energy.

Globally installed nuclear power is growing steadily, with 52 nuclear reactors under construction as of 2023, and 28 countries have expressed interest or initiated the IAEA's national nuclear energy development program. Most of the new reactors are under construction in Asia, particularly in China.

In 2022, nuclear energy was included among the energy sources promoted by the European Union taxonomy for sustainable finance.