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20 Years, Only 6 Plants? What Has Happened to Nuclear Power in Recent Decades?

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

When examining the worldwide number of nuclear power plants in 2021 vs. 2001, one might get the wrong impression that nothing has changed in two decades. But if we zoom in just a bit, we can reveal dozens of stories about boycotts and treaties, traumatic accidents, and technological advances. So, what has really happened in the past 20 years?

Nuclear Power Reactors have always been a topic of contention regarding being green energy or not. Some countries have shown rapid construction of new nuclear power reactors, while others are phasing out the already present ones. However, this difference doesn't stem solely from the different beliefs of state leaders and their citizens; it also comes from different histories and related experiences.

Most Asian countries have seen a rapid rise in the newer installations of nuclear power reactors owing to the instantaneous increase in the living standards of the people and the push by the Western world to harvest more sustainable and green energies. States such as China, India, and South Korea have seen a massive rise in the installation of new nuclear power reactors in the past 20 years, the reason being attributed to the increase in energy consumption as the requirement of power increases along with public support for nuclear power to fulfill the energy demand while incidents of nuclear accidents are nil or very low and minor.

However, in countries that have suffered an agonizing loss of human lives due to nuclear accidents, such as Japan, public support for nuclear energy has gone done and, with the memory fresh in mind, the only logical conclusion is the closing down of the massive number of nuclear reactors in the state.

Europe has been seeing a rapid phasing out of nuclear power reactors. The UK, Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, and Lithuania are reducing their dependence on nuclear power; the UK has closed down 20 of its reactors and Germany has closed 13 of its reactors as of 2021. The decline can be attributed to aging-related issues with the older nuclear reactors and a decrease in public support for nuclear power plants. This lower support by the public has also led to the abandonment of newer construction of power plants to fulfill the energy demands. The decrease in public support stems from the devastating consequences of the nuclear accidents that the world has faced and the growing nuclear power literacy and campaigns.

As the issue of climate change becomes more and more pressing, the search for a cleaner and more sustainable source of energy intensifies. But is nuclear power the optimal solution? And if so, is it limited to first-world countries only? And how important is the problem of radioactive waste? Listen to the podcast episode now.

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