Five years have passed since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster, but surprisingly, the popularity of the power source is poised to grow — albeit modestly.
Several nuclear plant shutdowns have been in the recent news — including one of Japan’s two remaining reactors — and more are in the works. However, by 2020, the global capacity for nuclear power is expected to grow by almost 3,400 megawatts.
Facilities representing about 2,140 megawatts of nuclear power are currently scheduled to close, but another 5,618 megawatts from plants currently under construction will be online by 2020. Overall, the global industry will see a boost, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As of today, there are 442 nuclear power reactors operating around the world. Sixty-six new reactors are under construction, and five of those are in the U.S.
China is leading the world in new nuclear facility projects, with 24 underway to complement 30 currently operational reactors. Considering China’s notorious struggles with air quality, replacing coal-fired plants with cleaner nuclear power — which emits zero carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides or sulfur dioxide — is a measure to reduce harmful smog.
Additionally, nuclear plants are typically equipped to produce more energy than natural gas or coal plants, averaging 1,000 megawatts compared with 130.
Even with these gains, nuclear power makes up only a fraction of global energy consumption. According to an energy study released by BP, in 2015 nuclear power represented only about 2 percent of the world’s energy consumption. By 2020, BP projects nuclear will account for 5 percent.