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Nuclear

In 2022 nuclear power generated 9.2% of the global electricity supply. Nuclear is a near zero-carbon fuel, so it does not contribute to climate change.

Share of nuclear in global electricity (%)

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Overview

Thirty nuclear countries produce a tenth of global electricity

Thirty countries around the world use nuclear power for electricity generation. Notable producers include France, which mostly decarbonised its electricity system in the 1980s using nuclear power. The United States, China, France, Russia and South Korea all produced more than 100 TWh of nuclear power in 2022.

 

Ember’s Global Electricity Review revealed that nuclear power generation fell by 4.7% in 2022, with the largest falls from maintenance closures in France and planned nuclear phase-out in Germany. Following the tsunami and meltdown at Fukushima nuclear power plant, in recent years many nuclear power plants have been closed or mothballed, especially in Europe and the United States. Nuclear plants are reaching the end of their lifetimes and replacements are beset by delays and inflating budgets. Only China and Russia have made significant capacity additions. 

 

Globally, nuclear power is falling as a share of electricity production. If this trend continues, it will be more difficult to switch away from fossil fuels and to keep global heating below 1.5C.

 

Last updated: April 2023

The world's biggest nuclear generators

Ember position

Zero-carbon nuclear power plays a supporting role

Nuclear power is an important source of firm zero-carbon energy, given the severity of the climate crisis and the necessity to quickly move off fossil fuels. 

In the scenario, nuclear power capacity increases significantly in the next three decades as electricity demand triples, but nuclear’s share of global electricity generation remains similar to today (10%).

Governments should especially endeavour to keep existing nuclear power online where it is safe to do so, and research new ways to benefit from nuclear power in the future, both in advanced fission and modular construction, as well as exploring prospects for power from nuclear fusion. 

However, we expect the vast majority of the growth in clean power in this critical decade to come from wind and solar, which is cheaper and faster to deploy, and lacks the requirement for long-term waste storage or high decommissioning costs.

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