Nuclear Power’s Expanding Territory
19 Aug 2005
In the past half-century, nuclear fission has emerged from behind a wall of military secrecy to become a widely used source of commercial electricity. Despite the high construction costs and special risks, more than 30 nations now have nuclear power.
Of the 441 currently working reactors, the United States has the largest number on line (104); France is second with 59 but has the highest share of electricity from nuclear power (nearly 80%). Investment in new plants slowed to a standstill in the West after the twin accidents of Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chornobyl in 1986. Since then, the global inventory of nuclear equipment has been drifting toward the 40-year mark, standard retirement age for reactors (see graph, bottom left). The most vigorous new growth is in Asia.
—Mason Inman (text) and Kelly Buckheit (design)