Nuclear Power’s Expanding Territory

19 Aug 2005


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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)


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »