International Comparison

In 2017, nuclear energy was used in 30 countries around the world. Approximately 400 nuclear reactors are currently operating, producing nearly 11% of the world’s electricity. The reliance on nuclear as part of the generation mix varies from country to country, making up anywhere between 2% and 72% of total generation. France, the Ukraine, and Slovakia are most reliant on nuclear to generate their electricity, with nuclear making up 72%, 55% and 54% of their respective generation mixes. In Canada, nuclear generated 15% of total electricity in 2016.  It also generated 4% of total nuclear electricity worldwide. This ranks Canada as the sixth largest generator, behind the United States (U.S.), France, China, Russia, and South Korea, which together generated 70% of the world’s nuclear electricity in 2016. (Figure 3)

Figure 3: World map and select statistics of nuclear generating countries

Figure 3: World map and select statistics of nuclear generating countries

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency

Construction of nuclear reactors has decreased from historical highs in the 1980s, when over 30 reactors started up in both 1984 and 1985. In 2015 and 2016, 10 reactors started up worldwide each year. This was the highest number of connections since 1990 and reflects China’s growing nuclear program, which accounted for 65% of new reactors in 2015 and 2016. 

The overall decrease in new construction is due, in part, to cost. Nuclear reactors are expensive to build, and today most are built with a large capacity in order to take advantage of economies of scale. Of the 53 nuclear power reactors under construction worldwide as of January 2018, 41 have a capacity greater than 1 000 MW.

As construction declines, the average age of the world’s nuclear reactors is increasing. In 2017, the average age of operating reactors was nearly 30 years. Canada’s currently-operating nuclear reactors started producing electricity between 1977 and 1993. Like most countries, Canada has invested in refurbishing existing plants, rather than building new ones.

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