Sometimes I get frustrated (I know, those of you who actually know me will be shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear that) by the lack of understanding that Americans display about events in other countries. We are a pretty insular people and often fail to understand what drives those events to occur.
In particular, I do not understand why some nuclear advocates in America often point to Europe and claim that their favorite technology has had a better reception there than it has here. They talk about how wonderful it is that France receives 75% of their electricity from nuclear fission. What they fail to understand, however, is that the anti-nuclear movement in the US largely originated in Europe, that France has not built a new nuclear plant in their own country in about 15 years, that Italy shut down its program in response to Chernobyl, that Austria has an official ban on nuclear power and fights any projects near their border, that Denmark and the Netherlands are strongly anti-nuclear and that Germany and Sweden both have official phaseout policies enshrined in their laws. (To be fair, Sweden is strongly reconsidering its policy and there are some indications that Germany might be doing the same.)
There is a bright spot in Europe when it comes to nuclear power, however, and that is in the newly free states that used to be behind the Iron Curtain. They already know what it is like to be dominated by Russia, and they want no part of trading political domination for economic domination by increasing their dependence on Russian oil and gas. Their economies are growing, increasing their need for reliable electricity supplies and they are quite concerned about the quality of their environment. Many are currently dependent on rather poor quality, dirty coal and would like to shift to clean, safe, abundant nuclear power. In several specific cases, they are still smarting from the knowledge that they had been forced to shut down some well functioning, demonstrably safe nuclear power plants as a condition of entry into the EU. Of course, the EU’s attitude towards nuclear power was dominated by the anti-nuclear factions in the above described establishment members.
I came across a good summary article about Eastern Europe and its nuclear programs titled Nuclear in Eastern Europe: a lively bright spot?. If you want more details about the history of the technology there and the plans for growth, I recommend you go and read it.