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Addicted to Nuclear Power: Can The Global Energy Market Do Without It?

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Europe hosts 143 nuclear reactors across 14 countries. (Photo: Patrick Hajzler)
Europe hosts 143 nuclear reactors across 14 countries. (Photo: Patrick Hajzler)


  • Europe launches safety tests for 143 reactors; France leading with 58 reactors
  • Nuclear makes up about 14% of the world's electricity
  • Emerging nuclear power market estimated to be worth over $160 billion from 2010-2030

Today European Union leaders encouraged worldwide nuclear plant stress testing and agreed to launch a tough safety review of their 143 reactors in 14 EU countries. France – one of the world’s most nuclear-reliant nations with 58 reactors – promised to close any plant that did not successfully pass the test.

This initiative comes amid the nuclear crisis in Japan, which has the future of nuclear hanging in the balance as world leaders scramble to calm citizens and reassure investors with strict new security guidelines.

Europe: A Major Nuclear Power Player

But can we make do without nuclear power? The World Nuclear Association says nuclear makes up about 14% of the world's electricity, with 16 countries depending on nuclear for at least a tenth of their electricity. France leads the pack, with close to 75% of its power nuclear-generated. In second place: Bulgaria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia and Ukraine with 33% or more. Germany, Finland and Japan use nuclear energy for over 25% of their power while the USA uses 20%. Though they do not have nuclear power plants, Italy gets about 10% of its power from nuclear and Denmark about 8%.

Europe holds a two-fifths part in the emerging nuclear power market, which is estimated to be worth more than $160 billion for 2010-2030, according to private research firm Global Data. With safety an obvious priority from here on, costly upgrades and increased security budgets could complicate the current advantages of nuclear.

The Group of 20 Ministers will meet in coming weeks, called by French President Nicolas Sarkozy whose country is leading the G20 this year, to review the global impact of the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Key Players - World Nuclear Industry (source: Xerfi Global)

  • AREVA, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Shanghai Electric, General Electric, Alstom, Hitachi, Toshiba, USEC and CAMECO.

By Sarah Dunbar for
Sarah Dunbar has been an editor and journalist for over eight years, covering trends in energy, economy and technology for international publications.

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