The Fukushima nuclear disaster changed attitudes towards nuclear power
Germany shut down its oldest reactors and plans to phase-out nuclear by 2022
Emerging markets are investing heavily into nuclear power
It’s been three years since Japan was hit with its worst-ever earthquake, causing serious damage to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The 9 magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami sent three of Fukushima’s reactors into melt-down, shocking the world. Japan, a fully industrialized country with high safety requirements, was facing a nuclear disaster of a similar scale to the deadly 1986 Chernobyl accident, in Soviet Ukraine.
As a result, many countries decided to review their energy policies.
Before the accident, 442 nuclear power reactors in 30 countries produced 14% of all world’s electricity.
This number dropped to just 11% in 2012, as 15 reactors exited service – mainly in Germany and Japan.
Today, 435 reactors operate in 31 countries, and a further 68 are under construction.
After the Fukushima disaster, Japan pulled back its nuclear ambitions, ordered large-scale inspections and introduced new safety regulations. All of its 48 remaining reactors have been kept offline and a proposal to restart the program awaits parliament’s approval.
Germany shut down eight of its oldest reactors almost immediately after Fukushima, focusing instead on renewable energy, and phase-out all of its nuclear power by 2022.
Switzerland adopted a similar approach when the government decided not to build any new reactors and phase out its nuclear production by 2034. This was despite a national referendum in which a majority of people voted in favor of more reactors.
But not all countries got scared.
Both France, which has the world’s highest share of nuclear power for its electricity production, and the U.S., the world’s largest producer, reaffirmed their positions on the power source. Both countries continue to invest heavily into safety improvements.
All four “BRIC” countries are boosting their nuclear power production, with India aiming to supply 25% and Russia 45% of their electricity from nuclear power by 2050, and Brazil planning to build five new reactors by 2030.
China is facing pressure to cut its pollution levels and reliance on coal. China already operates 20 reactors and aims to more than triple its nuclear capacity by 2020.
Editor’s note: Due to variations in terminology, various sources quote slightly different numbers of nuclear reactors worldwide. For the purpose of this report, CNN used World Nuclear Association data and considered only the reactors connected to the grid and supplying electricity to consumers as active.