Nuclear energy plays an important role in the European energy mix – Today in Energy

July 15, 2011

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency, Power Reactor Information System

To note: Countries without commercial nuclear reactors are not included. Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland use nuclear energy for more than 30% of their electricity production.

Nine European countries produced more than 30% of their electricity from nuclear sources in 2010. Five other countries produced more than 20% of their electricity from nuclear sources. Germany, which ranked second in total and nuclear generation in 2010, has announced plans to phase out nuclear generation by 2022.

Recent issues in European energy policy include a reassessment of nuclear power following the accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear facility in March 2011. While Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Austria have decided to reduce or eliminate their dependence on nuclear energy as a result of this event. , France plans to continue its current large nuclear program, as does the United Kingdom.

Germany currently generates about a quarter of its electricity from nuclear power, but has announced its intention to dismantle its nuclear capacity of more than 20 gigawatts by 2022. Switzerland generates more than a third of its electricity from nuclear sources, but decided to halt the development of new facilities. Existing plants will be allowed to operate until the end of their life, effectively eliminating nuclear power in this country by 2034. Italy and Austria do not have commercial nuclear reactors; however, in a recent referendum, Italy voted against new nuclear construction and Austria decided to end its imports of electricity produced from nuclear sources by 2015.

European Union (EU) countries need to consider EU-wide energy goals, which include a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). Since nuclear energy does not emit greenhouse gases, the loss of the nuclear component in the production portfolio of some countries will make it more difficult for them to meet the national commitments that have been made in support of this EU-wide objective.

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