French scientific tradition regarding nuclear science

By the turn of the XIXth century, radioactivity was discovered by Henri Becquerel, Pierre and Marie Curie, who were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for this discovery. Then in 1934, Frederic Joliot-Curie and his wife Irene, Marie Curie’s daughter, were awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of artificial radioactivity. In 1939, a few months after the discovery of nuclear fission by a German team led by Otto Hahn, the French team led by Frederic Joliot-Curie demonstrated that new neutrons were emitted during a fission, making it possible to establish and sustain

Country

Production

TWh

Installed nuclear

capacity

(GWe)

Number of

operating

reactors

% nuclear in

electricity

production

United States of America

787

98

103

19

France

429

63

59

78

Japan

292

48

55

30

Germany

159

20

17

32

Russian Federation

144

22

31

16

South Korea

141

17

20

39

Canada

92

13

18

16

Ukraine

85

13

15

48

United Kingdom

69

1 1

19

18

Sweden

65

9

10

52

World Total

2658

370

437

16

a nuclear chain reaction: in May 1939 and 1940 they patented the principles of what was to become both the nuclear reactor and the atomic bomb. At the same time they also predicted many other applications of radioactivity both for industrial and medical purposes. The French are still proud of this paternity of nuclear power, even though, due to World War II, the first nuclear reactor, Enrico Fermi’s CP1, was actually built in the USA and went critical in December 1942 when France was oc­cupied. As soon as October 1945, when France was just starting to recover from the war, the provisional government presided by General de Gaulle created the French Commissariat a l’Energie Atomique, CEA, with a mission to develop all aspects of the new energy source. The first French experimental reactor, Zoe, started operation in December 1948.

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