All the recent attention to the 40th anniversary of atomic energy graphically reminded us of the potential threat that nuclear weapons represent. Regrettably, though, it overlooked the way that nuclear energy has helped to preserve the peace. Its use to generate electric power has helped industrialized countries to reduce their dependence on imported oil and, quite possibly, in the future, it may avoid a war.
After the 1973 oil embargo virtually all industrialized nations rapidly began developing substitutes for imported oil. That usually mean nuclear energy. As a result, nuclear electric power now provides more than 60% of the electricity in France, more than half the electric power in Belgium, and more than 20% in Japan, West Germany, Switzerland and several other countries. Without nuclear power in 1984, the world would have needed the energy of another 5 billion barrels a day to provide fuel for electric power plants.