The Fukushima disaster put nuclear power under the microscope throughout the world. But in the aftermath of the worst nuclear incident in 25 years, countries acted differently. Some stopped to reconsider their nuclear programs, while others pushed on with vigor.
A few nations reacted sharply against nuclear, especially Japan, where the disaster occurred. As of just a couple of weeks ago, Japan is nuclear free, having shut off all 54 of its reactors. Whether it will stay that way is unknown, but public opinion is decidedly – and understandably – anti nuclear so a move back to using nuclear power may be a tough sell in the future.
Way over in Central Europe, about as far from Fukushima as you can get, Germany is phasing out its nuclear stations as is neighboring Switzerland. Germany, heavily industrialized and technologically advanced, has long had a strong Green/anti-nuclear lobby. Despite a short-term balk in 2010, there’s been a complete phase-out planned since 2002. They’ve also done well since closing 8 of their reactors following Fukushima. According to the Guardian Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions have gone down by 2%, their economy has grown by 3%, energy consumption dropped by 5.3% and electricity prices have gone down by 10-15% (after an immediate post-Fukushima spike). All that in just a year and after losing 60% of their capacity for nuclear energy.
Japan’s plans, which I go over here, are equally ambitious as Germany’s, though the East Asian’s industrial and economic powerhouse of course is in different circumstances, despite many historical and contemporary comparisons.
The United States, a huge greenhouse gas emitter, leads the world in the number of nuclear plants by a huge margin – 104 to runner-up France’s 58. These countries, along with Russia, the Ukraine, South Korea, India, Canada and the UK, aren’t showing any concrete signs of turning away from nuclear power. India and Russia are building, and planning to build many more to add to their already substantial numbers.
But the real nuclear power ambition lies in China, which is set to lead the world in nuclear reactors in the coming years. Of course it will take a lot of building to catch up to the US (China currently has 14 compared to the US’s 104) but according to the Financial Times, China has 25 under construction with ‘dozens more in advanced planning’. And if any nation can complete large-scale construction projects in short amounts of time it’s China.
Other nations that are currently without nuclear reactors, but are planning on constructing them, include Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Vietnam and the UAE. South Africa, Argentina, Pakistan, Finland and Romania are also planning on increasing their small amount of reactors.
Countries that remain nuclear free include Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Portugal and Austria.