Column: The best and the worst countries (Nuclear Plants)

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Written by Dario Ruggiero (June 2012)

This is the third of a series of articles aimed at analyzing the countries more and less virtuous with regards to a particular theme. In this one we are going to talk about nuclear plants: countries will be analyzed and ranked in terms of nuclear plants.
“The alternative to oil must not be sought in a source
that has proven to be catastrophic during the history ...”
(Dario Ruggiero)
Operative nuclear plants in the world
Data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) give us the distribution on nuclear plants in the world. According to data at may 2012, total world operative nuclear plants are 436, with a total net electric capacity of 370,499 MW. Almost ¼ of nuclear plants are located in the United States (104 operative nuclear plants); France and Japan follow with 58 and 50 operative nuclear plants; adding up Russia (33 nuclear plants), these 4 countries together have more than half the number of nuclear plants in the world. Also the Republic of Korea has an high number of operative nuclear plants (23), followed by India (20), Canada (18), United Kingdom (17), China (16), Ukraine (15), Sweden (10), Germany (9), Spain (8), Belgium (7), Czech Republic (6) and Switzerland (5). All these countries own almost the totality of operative nuclear plants in the world.

Total net electric capacity generated by nuclear plants in the world is 270,499 MW; United States, France and Japan cover almost 56% of the total; following Russia and the Republic of Korea, with a percentage share over 5%.

Graph - Operative nuclear plants distribution in the world as at may 2012 operative nuclear plants in each country

Source: LTEconomy elaboration on IAEA data

In the Advanced countries are located 430 nuclear plants (93% of the world total); actually these nuclear plants are all located in only 23 countries of the 42 advanced countries analyzed. Among those not having nuclear plants, are countries with a big economic size such as Italy, Portugal, Norway, Israel etc… A more logic comparison between countries can be made by normalizing the number of nuclear plants to the population size, so having the number of nuclear plants per million inhabitants. In absolute terms, countries with the highest number of nuclear plants are United States, France, Japan, Russia and Republic of Korea; in relative terms, these countries, except for France, are not yet in the worst part of the table; in this case in the last positions are placed Switzerland, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, with an higher ratio between operative nuclear plants and population.

Among the countries with nuclear plants, France is the one (2011 data) whose electric Energy generated depends much on nuclear plants (77.7%), followed by Belgium and Slovakia (54%). In this way these countries reduce their Co2 emissions (by using uranium instead of oil as the main source of energy): but they take a big risk for their land; moreover, their energy strategy can be a mistake in the long term as they don’t think about a different energy model based on a lower energy consumption and more inclined to the use of renewable and polite sources. Ukraine, Hungary, Slovenia and Switzerland follow, with more than 40% of their electric energy generated by nuclear plants. Significant is also the percentage in United States (19.2%) and Germany (17.8%).

Operative and potential nuclear plants in the world

Let’s take into consideration again countries with at least one nuclear plant. United States, France, Japan, Russia and Republic of Korea are the countries with the highest number of nuclear plants in the world. But China is the country with the highest number of potential nuclear plants (26 more, with a 42 total); following Russia and India respectively with 11 and 7 nuclear plants under construction. Totally, the number of nuclear plants under construction in the world is 62; adding up this number to that of the existing ones, the potential number of nuclear plants in the world is 498.

Since 1954 (the birth year of the first nuclear plant – in Obninsk) nuclear energy has had ups and downs in its development. At the beginning nuclear energy was considered a promising source of energy as it is clearer than oil in terms of Co2 emissions. But the Chernobyl and the Fukushima accidents have strongly slowed the investments plans in this kind of energy. By now, the humankind know essentially three ways for producing energy: 1) by using traditional fossil fuels (cool, oil and natural gas); by using uranium (by nuclear reactions); by using renewable sources (wood, water, heat, wind, sun). Each of these ways has its advantages and disadvantages. But, in terms of environmental effect, the debate is decisively in favor of renewable sources.

The debate on energy must focus not only on the best or worst source of energy (in other words on the supply of energy – and this also in the case an infinitive source of energy will be find), but on the reduction of the energy need (on the demand of energy), by re-planning the way by which the energy is produced and distributed. These aspects are well discussed by Pallante (2011) and Rifkin (2011), when they say to move from a centralized energy structure with few big plants of production to a network system of short-range distribution, based on the model of the information technology network. The reduction in the waste of energy, helped by the construction of buildings well insulated (and the restructuring of the existent ones) in order to reduce the loss of energy and locally produce energy is a better approach to face the problem of the energy market. In this way it will emerge the real need of energy (that exceed the energy generated locally) and, only after this moment, we could think about what should be the best energy supply model, giving precedence to the use of energy with a lower environmental impact. In conclusion, coming back to the nuclear matter, the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents have given us a clear sign of dangerous in the use of this source of energy. We are in an historical phase in which the human footprint on the environment is exceeding the limit the earth can absorb; the use of energetic sources with big environmental effects (traditional and nuclear) must be reduced and, to this end, we need an energy policy more based on the “demand” than on the supply of energy.


Advanced countries
: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, German, Japan, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Korea Rep. of, Luxembourg, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, United States, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.


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Jeremy Rifkin (2011), La terza rivoluzione industriale, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A, Milano

Ferloni Paolo (2012), Incoscienza nucleare. I danni provocati dall'energia nucleare civile e militare, Effigie Editore

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ASPO International - http://www,peakoil,net/

This article by Dario Ruggiero
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License

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