Energy Transition

Which country is currently producing the most nuclear power?

Gray concrete nuclear power plant under blue sky.

Nuclear power made up 4.3% of the global energy mix in 2020. Image: UNSPLASH/ Lukáš Lehotský

Govind Bhutada
Author, Visual Capitalist
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Energy Transition

This article is part of: Centre for Energy and Materials
  • Nuclear power plants around the world account for around 10% of the world's electricity.
  • Just 15 countries make up for more than 91% of global nuclear power production, with the U.S. accounting for nearly 31%.
  • Despite certain countries, such as Germany, phasing out their usage, the demand for carbon-free energy sources may cause a resurgence for nuclear power in the global energy mix.
A chart showing facts about nuclear power by country.
Nuclear power plants make up about 10% of the world's electricity. Image: Visual Capitalist

Nuclear power production by country

Nearly 450 reactors around the world supply various nations with nuclear power, combining for about 10% of the world’s electricity, or about 4% of the global energy mix.

But while some countries are turning to nuclear as a clean energy source, nuclear energy generation overall has seen a slowdown since its peak in the 1990s.

The above infographic breaks down nuclear electricity generation by country in 2020 using data from the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS).

Ranked: The top 15 Countries for nuclear power

Just 15 countries account for more than 91% of global nuclear power production. Here’s how much energy these countries produced in 2020:

A chart showing the top 15 countries for nuclear power production.
Just 15 countries account for over 90% of global nuclear power production. Image: Visual Capitalist

In the U.S., nuclear power produces over 50% of the country’s clean electricity. Additionally, 88 of the country’s 96 operating reactors in 2020 received approvals for a 20-year life extension.

China, the world’s second-largest nuclear power producer, is investing further in nuclear energy in a bid to achieve its climate goals. The plan, which includes building 150 new reactors by 2035, could cost as much as $440 billion.

On the other hand, European opinions on nuclear energy are mixed. Germany is the eighth-largest on the list but plans to shutter its last operating reactor in 2022 as part of its nuclear phase-out. France, meanwhile, plans to expand its nuclear capacity.

Which countries rely most on nuclear energy?

Although total electricity generation is useful for a high-level global comparison, it’s important to remember that there are some smaller countries not featured above where nuclear is still an important part of the electricity mix.

Here’s a breakdown based on the share of nuclear energy in a country’s electricity mix:

A chart showing the share of nuclear energy in a country's electric mix.
Nuclear power makes up 70% of France's electricity mix. Image: Visual Capitalist

European countries dominate the leaderboard with 14 of the top 15 spots, including France, where nuclear power is the country’s largest source of electricity.

It’s interesting to note that only a few of these countries are top producers of nuclear in absolute terms. For example, in Slovakia, nuclear makes up 53.6% of the electricity mix—however, the country’s four reactors make up less than 1% of total global operating capacity.

On the flipside, the U.S. ranks 17th by share of nuclear power in its mix, despite producing 31% of global nuclear electricity in 2020. This discrepancy is largely due to size and population. European countries are much smaller and produce less electricity overall than larger countries like the U.S. and China.

The future of nuclear power

The nuclear power landscape is constantly changing.

There were over 50 additional nuclear reactors under construction in 2020, and hundreds more are planned primarily in Asia.

As countries turn away from fossil fuels and embrace carbon-free energy sources, nuclear energy might see a resurgence in the global energy mix despite the phase-outs planned in several countries around the globe.

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