Why The World Needs More Nuclear Power

This is the final article in a series based on BP’s recently-released Statistical Review of World Energy 2019. Previous articles in this series covered carbon dioxide emissions, petroleum supply and demand, the production and consumption of coal, global natural gas trends, and the continued explosion in the growth of renewable energy:

Today, I want to discuss nuclear energy. First, I will cover the statistics on nuclear energy, but then I want to highlight why it is important that we continue to develop and advance nuclear technology.

Nuclear: By the Numbers

In 2018, the world produced 2,701 terawatt-hours (TWh) of nuclear power. This represents a slight decline over the past decade, but that’s somewhat misleading. Global nuclear power production dropped by 10% from 2010 t0 2012, a consequence of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. But global nuclear power generation has risen every year since 2012.

Of course this wasn’t the first accident to impact the nuclear power industry. The most serious incident was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The pace of global nuclear power growth slowed significantly following Chernobyl, but it didn’t contract as it did following the Fukushima accident.

Nuclear power generation 1965-2018.

The U.S. remains by far the world’s leading producer of nuclear power. In 2018, the U.S. generated 850 TWh of nuclear power, which represented 31.4% of the world’s total nuclear generation. France was in second place, well behind with the U.S. with 15.3% of the global share. But, the U.S. has nearly five times the population of France, so France does lead on a per capita basis.

China was in third place with a 10.9% global share of nuclear generation. However, China’s nuclear program is noteworthy, as they are only one of two countries that grew nuclear power by an annual average above 10% over the past decade. (Pakistan is the other country, but they have a minuscule 0.4% global share). China also has more nuclear power plants being planned than any other country.