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Who are the world’s nuclear powerhouses?

The United States has the largest number of nuclear reactors in operation, while France derives the largest percentage of its power from nuclear.

A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, has shown that the most significant carbon reduction progress has been made by nations without nuclear energy, or with plans to reduce it.

According to the report, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to tackle carbon emissions and put renewable forms of generation in place. However, it’s difficult to determine if there’s a causal link between nuclear power and the slow uptake of renewables.

The study presents a dilemma for those who believe nuclear energy is the future of no-carbon energy generation. So, who are the countries most reliant on nuclear reactors to keep their lights on? And how realistic is the prospect of decommissioning this capacity?

United States
By all accounts, the USA is the most nuclear-friendly nation on Earth. As of 2016, it had 99 reactors operating in 30 states — producing 19 percent of the country’s electricity — and five nuclear facilities under construction. Following a three-decade lull in reactor-building, it’s thought that the new units will come online by 2021.

While the World Nuclear Association says that the public opinion of nuclear energy in the USA has grown more favourable in recent decades, the issue of the disposal of nuclear waste is still of concern to environmentalists.

France
France derives 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, the largest share of any country in the world. It is also the world’s largest net exporter of electricity thanks to its low cost of generation — and it pockets an extra €3 billion from these sales annually.

However, the country will reportedly cut its share of nuclear power generation to 50 percent by 2025, as the government aims to diversify its energy mix and further incorporate renewables.  

Russia
A government decree published earlier this month has indicated that Russia intends to construct 11 new nuclear power reactors by 2030. As of 2015, the country was already operating 35 reactors with a combined capacity of 25,264 MWe.

Russia isn’t merely content to expand its own nuclear programme — it is looking to enhance its reputation as a global provider of nuclear knowledge. At present, the world’s largest nation is building a nuclear power station, called Kudankulam, in India. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced plans to further collaborate with Russia to build a handful of 1,000MW nuclear plants.

China
Mainland China currently has 20 nuclear power plants under construction — the largest number of any nation on Earth. As it seeks to phase out infamously unclean coal-fired capacity, the country is aiming to have 150GWe of nuclear installed by 2030.

According to reports published earlier this year, China will build 40 new nuclear plants by 2021. Like Russia, China is also keen to take an interest in nuclear power abroad, with the issue of Chinese investment proving contentious in the UK government’s pending Hinkley Point C decision.

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