There are 32 countries that produce atomic energy, of which 9 countries have nuclear weapons and 7 countries have both.
With the end of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference, countries are making plans to switch to green energy in response to global warming.
But nuclear energy is a special sticking point. Although it is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries, some countries have publicly opposed the classification of nuclear energy as climate-friendly.
Globally, 34 countries use the power of splitting atoms to generate electricity or manufacture nuclear weapons.
Global nuclear energy
Nuclear energy provides approximately 10% of the world’s electricity. Of the 32 countries with nuclear power reactors, more than half (18) are in Europe. France has the world’s highest proportion of electricity-71%-from atomic energy.
Until 2011, about 30% of Japan’s electricity came from nuclear reactors; however, after the Fukushima disaster, all nuclear power plants were suspended for safety inspections. According to the World Nuclear Energy Association, as of 2020, only 5% of Japan’s electricity comes from nuclear power.
Nuclear power accounts for approximately 20% of American electricity. Approximately 60% of the country’s energy comes from fossil fuels, including coal, natural gas, and oil, and the remaining 20% comes from renewable energy sources—wind, water, and solar.
Nuclear warheads in every country
According to data from the Federation of American Scientists, as of August 2021, nine countries have approximately 13,150 warheads. Russia and the United States own more than 90% of the shares.
At its peak in 1986, there were nearly 65,000 nuclear warheads between the two rivals, making the nuclear arms race one of the most threatening events in the Cold War. Although Russia and the United States have dismantled thousands of warheads, several countries are believed to be increasing their inventories, most notably China.
According to the Pentagon’s 2021 annual report (pdf), by 2030, China’s nuclear warhead reserves are expected to more than triple to at least 1,000.
The only country that voluntarily renounced nuclear weapons is South Africa. In 1989, the government stopped its nuclear weapons program and in 1990 began to dismantle its six nuclear weapons. Two years later, South Africa joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear country.
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty
The NPT was established in 1968 to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The treaty prohibits signatories other than the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France from acquiring nuclear weapons in exchange for allowing them to carry out peaceful nuclear programs for power generation under the supervision of the United Nations.
At present, as many as 190 countries have signed the treaty. Only India, Israel, Pakistan and South Sudan have never become parties to the treaty. North Korea signed the treaty in 1985, but withdrew in 2003. Three years later, under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, the country detonated its first nuclear weapon.