Nuclear Power's Surge Sags

Nuclear power, once known as the energy source of the future, is no longer as popular as it was two decades ago. Total nuclear energy production has grown by only 5 percent in the '90s, compared with 70 percent in the '70s. Some countries have stopped building new nuclear plants, including Germany and France, and some are debating how fast to phase out nuclear energy. Cost and safety concerns have caused many countries to rely more on natural gas and in some cases explore renewable resources, such as solar, wind and water power.

In most countries that rely on nuclear power for more than 30 percent of their energy needs, the proportion of nuclear energy produced has decreased.

Nuclear power as percentage of all electrical power generated:

Lithuania

1998: 77%

France

1998: 75%

Belgium

1998: 55%

Sweden

1998: 46%

Ukraine

1998: 45%

Slovak Rep.

1998: 44%

Bulgaria

1998: 42%

S. Korea

1998: 41%

Switzerland

1998: 41%

Slovenia

1998: 38%

Japan

1998: 36%

Hungary

1998: 36%

Spain

1998: 32%

The growth in nuclear energy production capacity has slowed in the past few years, driven in part by popular pressure over disposal of nuclear waste. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that generating capacity will decline in the next century.

SOURCES: International Atomic Energy Agency, Nuclear Energy Institute, Worldwatch Institute, U.S. Department of Energy