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The science of nuclear energy
The science of nuclear energy

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4.1 Energy for the future or relic of the past?

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Figure 1

The Flamanville plant is the first new nuclear plant to be built in France for 15 years.

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Figure 2

Nuclear power – an energy source for the future?

The events at Fukushima had repercussions around the world. It led many to question whether nuclear power is an energy for the future or a relic of the past.

It was well publicised that in the wake of the accident at Fukushima, Italy and Germany announced plans to phase out their nuclear industry, with the latter intending to phaseout all reactors by 2022. Both Spain and France aim to reduce their dependency on nuclear power.

Less publicised is, what you learned in Week 2, that there are many nuclear reactors under construction and a further 500 proposed plants! Table 1 shows in which countries these are to be situated.

Table 1 Nuclear reactors around the world
Country Reactors operable Reactors under construction Reactors planned Reactors proposed
US 99 5 5 17
France 58 1 1 1
Japan* 48 3 9 3
Russia 34 9 31 18
South Korea 23 5 8 0
China 22 27 64 123
India 21 6 22 35
Canada 19 0 2 3
UK 16 0 4 7
Ukraine 15 0 2 11
World Total 437 70 183 311
(Source: World Nuclear Association)


This table shows the top ten countries with the most nuclear reactors and the world total. *Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Many countries intend to increase the amount of nuclear energy that they use; these include Hungary, Romania and Ukraine. Poland and Turkey plan to build their first nuclear reactors and as you can see from the table, China has many reactors planned.

Why are so many countries forging ahead with nuclear power?

You will examine the answers to this question in the following sections along with some of the issues that surround the use of fossil fuels. In particular, you will look at the need to find cleaner energy sources that reduce the emission of carbon dioxide.