Facts about nuclear power

Nuclear power plays a vital role in many European countries due to its security of supply and low CO2 emissions.

Major differences between European countries

The EU accounts for roughly one-third of the world's annual nuclear-based electricity generation, but the significance of nuclear power's role varies widely among European countries. Several countries have no nuclear power at all, while France, for example, has 58 reactors in operation and produces three quarters of its total electricity generation in nuclear power plants.

Discussions on new nuclear projects have commenced in several European countries.

– In 2002, Finland's Parliament gave the green light to the construction of a new nuclear reactor at the existing Olkiluoto power plant.

– Great Britain has a relatively large share of old reactors that will be closed by 2023 according to present plans. It plans to put a number of new reactors into operation by 2020.

– In the summer of 2010, The Swedish Parliament passed a bill that lifted the ban on constructing new reactors.

In Germany, however, the government has decided to phase out the use of nuclear power.

Share of nuclear power in electricity generation

Energy triangle

In supplying society with energy, a balance must be struck between three key dimensions: competitiveness, security of supply, and the environment and climate. No single energy source is optimal from all dimensions. This energy triangle illustrates the pros and cons of nuclear power.

Climate and environment: Nuclear power emits low levels of CO2 across the life-cycle. The management of high-level waste such as spent nuclear fuel requires storage in secure facilities for a very long time. By some estimates this time could be up to 100,000 years. Uranium mining interferes with nature, though with modern mining methods damage to the landscape is repaired after mining is completed.       

Security of supply: Nuclear power provides stable and large-scale electricity generation, and fuel availability is stable. Uranium is commonly found in nature in several places around the world. Reactors are regularly taken offline, so called outages, for planned maintenance and sometimes modernisation. Typically such outages occur once a year. They are planned for warmer periods of the year when demand for energy is lower.

Competitiveness: The construction of a new nuclear power plant requires major investments, but a plant can produce large volumes and has a long useful life. Costs for fuel, operation and maintenance are normally relatively low.

Last updated: 2013-10-01 08:48