Nuclear Power

Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy is the world's largest source of emission-free energy. Nuclear power plants produce no controlled air pollutants, such as sulfur and particulates, or greenhouse gases. The use of nuclear energy in place of other energy sources helps to keep the air clean, preserve the Earth's climate, avoid ground-level ozone formation and prevent acid rain.

Nuclear power has important implications for our national security. Inexpensive nuclear power, in combination with fuel cell techology, could significantly reduce our dependency on foreign oil.

Nuclear power plants have experienced an admirable safety record. About 20% of electricity generated in the U.S. comes from nuclear power, and in the last forty years of this production, not one single fatality has occurred as a result of the operation of a civilian nuclear power plant in the United States. In comparison, many people die in coal mining accidents every year and approximately ten thousand Americans die every year from pollution related to coal burning.

The nuclear power industry generates approximately 2,000 tons of solid waste annually in the United States. In comparison, coal fueled power plants produce 100,000,000 tons of ash and sludge annually, and this ash is laced with poisons such as mercury and nitric oxide.

Even this 2,000 tons of nuclear waste is not a technical problem. Reprocessing of nuclear fuel, and the implementation of Integral Fast Reactor technology, will enable us to turn the vast majority of what is currently considered waste into energy.

Nuclear Power Technology

The Virtual Nuclear Tourist

A comprehensive introductory educational site about all forms of nuclear power.

Uranium Information Centre

Australians Uranium Information Centre to increase public understanding of uranium mining and nuclear electricity generation.

How Nuclear Power Works

From How Stuff Works

Nuclear FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Nuclear Energy

Interview with Dr. Charles Till

PBS interview with Dr. Charles Till, nuclear physicist and associate lab director at Argonne National Laboratory West about the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR).

The Future of Nuclear Power

An interdisciplinary MIT faculty group decided to study the future of nuclear power because of a belief that this technology is an important option for the United States and the world to meet future energy needs without emitting carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants. Other options include increased efficiency, renewables, and carbon sequestration, and all may be needed for a successful greenhouse gas management strategy. This study, addressed to government, industry, and academic leaders, discusses the interrelated technical, economic, environmental, and political challenges facing a significant increase in global nuclear power utilization over the next half century and what might be done to overcome those challenges.

(S-8) Nuclear Power

Introductory tutorial on how nuclear power works.


JET is the world's largest nuclear fusion research facility. Its unique features allow us to explore the unknown; to investigate fusion's potential as a safe, clean, and virtually limitless energy source for future generations.

Nuclear Facts

Nuclear technology has existed since Dr. Enrico Fermi achieved the first controlled nuclear reaction on Dec. 2, 1942. It took nine more years before the first electricity was generated with an experimental nuclear reactor to light four light bulbs. Since these significant mileposts were achieved, nuclear power generation has become the clean air resource for generating electricity for countless homes in the United States and around the world.

Radiation Related Terms

Glossary of Radiation Related Terms

Radiation in Nature

Radionuclides are found naturally in air, water and soil. They are even found in us, being that we are products of our environment. Every day, we ingest and inhale radionuclides in our air and food and the water. Natural radioactivity is common in the rocks and soil that makes up our planet, in water and oceans, and in our building materials and homes. There is nowhere on Earth that you can not find Natural Radioactivity.

What You Need to Know abot Radiation

What You Need to Know abot Radiation: To protect yourself; To Protect Your Family; To Make Reasonable Social and Political Choices

Basics of Radiation and Radioactivity

Zipped PowerPoint presentations on the basics of radiation and radioactivity

Radiation and You

Zipped PowerPoint presentation and Microsoft Word formatted handouts for use in explaining radiation.

Nuclear Power Economics

The Economics of Nuclear Power

Nuclear energy is, in many places, competitive with fossil fuel for electricity generation, despite relatively high capital costs and the need to internalise all waste disposal and decommissioning costs. If the social, health and environmental costs of fossil fuels are also taken into account, nuclear is outstanding.

NEA Press Kit: Economics of Nuclear Power

How much does nuclear production of electricity really cost? Initial NEA studies focused on the direct costs including capital, investment, operation, maintenance and final cost. More recent discussions have endeavoured to examine the entire life cycle cost of nuclear electricity as well as its competitiveness in deregulated energy markets.

Nuclear Power Regulatory Agencies

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The NRC's mission is to regulate the Nation's civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security, and to protect the environment.

The Nuclear Energy Agency

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is a specialised agency within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organisation of industrialised countries, based in Paris, France. The mission of the NEA is to assist its Member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. To achieve this, the NEA works as: a forum for sharing information and experience and promoting international co-operation; a centre of excellence which helps Member countries to pool and maintain their technical expertise; a vehicle for facilitating policy analyses and developing consensus based on its technical work.


SKI is the Swedish government regulatory body that supervises all nuclear activities in Sweden.

Energy Information Administration (EIA)

Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government

Nuclear Power Safety

Nuclear Policy Information Center

Perspectices on Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Waste Storage and the Threat Posed by Terrorism

Center for Nuclear and Toxic Waste Management at the University of California at Berkeley

The Berkeley Center for Nuclear and Toxic Waste Management was established in 1993 bringing together experts from many disciplines to work together to address the issues surrounding nuclear and toxic waste management. The premise of our activities is that decisions leading to effective solutions for nuclear and toxic waste management problems require the simultaneous consideration of a broad set of technical and non-technical issues.

Yucca Mountain Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for developing and issuing environmental standards and criteria to ensure that public health and the environment are adequately protected from potential radiation impacts from waste stored or disposed in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The Yucca Mountain site is located in Nye County, approximately 150 kilometers (90 miles) northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, and on the southwestern boundary of the Nevada Test Site. Yucca Mountain is an irregularly shaped elevated land mass six to 10 km wide (four to six miles) and about 40 km (25 miles) long. A waste repository would be about 300 meters (one thousand feet) below the crest of Yucca Mountain and about the same distance above the water table under the mountain.

Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management

The Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy assigned to develop and manage a federal system for disposing of spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear reactors and high-level radioactive waste from national defense activities.

Nuclear Power Plant Accidents

From Infoplease

The History of Nuclear Power Safety

A chronology of nuclear safety research and development.

International Nuclear Safety Center

The International Nuclear Safety Center (INSC), which operates under the guidance of the Director of International Nuclear Safety and Cooperation (NN-30) in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), has the mission of improving nuclear power reactor safety worldwide. The INSC is dedicated to the goals of developing enhanced nuclear safety technology and promoting the open exchange of nuclear safety information among nations. The INSC sponsors scientific research activities as collaborations between the U.S. and its international partners, who have also established safety centers in their countries. INSC activities are currently focused on Soviet-designed nuclear power plants in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Organizations Involved with Nuclear Power

World Nuclear Association

The World Nuclear Association is the global industrial organisation that seeks to promote the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries. Specifically, the WNA is concerned with nuclear power generation and all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including mining, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, plant manufacture, transport, and the safe disposition of spent fuel.

The Nuclear Energy Institute

The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear energy and technologies industry and participates in both the national and global policy-making process. NEI's objective is to ensure the formation of policies that promote the beneficial uses of nuclear energy and technologies in the United States and around the world.

American Nuclear Society

The American Nuclear Society is a not-for-profit, international, scientific and educational organization. It was established by a group of individuals who recognized the need to unify the professional activities within the diverse fields of nuclear science and technology.

World Nuclear Association (WNA)

The World Nuclear Association is the global industrial organisation that seeks to promote the peaceful worldwide use of nuclear power as a sustainable energy resource for the coming centuries. Specifically, the WNA is concerned with nuclear power generation and all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including mining, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, plant manufacture, transport, and the safe disposition of spent fuel.

The Radiation Information Network

The Radiation Information Network from Idaho State University

Laws Governing Nuclear Power

Atomic Energy Act of 1954

This Act is the fundamental U.S. law on both the civilian and the military uses of nuclear materials. On the civilian side, it provides for both the development and the regulation of the uses of nuclear materials and facilities in the United States, declaring the policy that "the development, use, and control of atomic energy shall be directed so as to promote world peace, improve the general welfare, increase the standard of living, and strengthen free competition in private enterprise." The Act requires that civilian uses of nuclear materials and facilities be licensed, and it empowers the NRC to establish by rule or order, and to enforce, such standards to govern these uses as "the Commission may deem necessary or desirable in order to protect health and safety and minimize danger to life or property." Commission action under the Act must conform to the Act's procedural requirements, which provide an opportunity for hearings and Federal judicial review in many instances.

Energy Reorganization Act of 1974

This Act established the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, a single agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, had responsibility for the development and production of nuclear weapons and for both the development and the safety regulation of the civilian uses of nuclear materials. The Act of 1974 split these functions, assigning to one agency, now the Department of Energy, the responsibility for the development and production of nuclear weapons, promotion of nuclear power, and other energy-related work, and assigning to the NRC the regulatory work, which does not include regulation of defense nuclear facilities. The Act of 1974 gave the Commission its collegial structure and established its major offices. The later amendment to the Act also provided protections for employees who raise nuclear safety concerns.

Reorganization Plans

Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1970 established the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and gave it a role in establishing "generally applicable environmental standards for the protection of the general environment from radioactive material." Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1980 strengthened the executive and administrative roles of the NRC Chairman, particularly in emergencies, transferring to the Chairman "all the functions vested in the Commission pertaining to an emergency concerning a particular facility or materials ... regulated by the Commission." This Reorganization Plan also provided that all policy formulation, policy-related rulemaking, and orders and adjudications would remain vested with the full Commission.

Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982

This Act establishes both the Federal government's responsibility to provide a place for the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel, and the generators' responsibility to bear the costs of permanent disposal. Amendments to the Act have focused the Federal government's efforts, through the Department of Energy, on studying a possible site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. If the Department and the President recommend to the Congress that a permanent repository be built there, and if the recommendation survives the special procedures that the Act establishes for Congressional review of the recommendation, the Department will apply to the NRC for authorization to construct the repository. The Act provides for extensive State, Tribal, and public participation in the planning and development of permanent repositories.

Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985

This Act gives States the responsibility to dispose of low-level radioactive waste generated within their borders and allows them to form compacts to locate facilities to serve a group of States. The Act provides that the facilities will be regulated by the NRC or by States that have entered into Agreements with the NRC under section 274 of the Atomic Energy Act. The Act also requires the NRC to establish standards for determining when radionuclides are present in waste streams in sufficiently low concentrations or quantities as to be "below regulatory concern."

Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act of 1978

This Act establishes programs for the stabilization and control of mill tailings at uranium or thorium mill sites, both active and inactive, in order to prevent or minimize, among other things, the diffusion of radon into the environment. Title II of the Act gives the NRC regulatory authority over mill tailing at sites under NRC license on or after January 1, 1978.

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978

This Act seeks to limit the spread of nuclear weapons by, among other things, establishing criteria governing U.S. nuclear exports licensed by the NRC and taking steps to strengthen the international safeguards system.

Administrative Procedure Act (5 USC Chapters 5 through 8)

This Act is the fundamental law governing the processes of Federal administrative agencies. Its original focus was on rulemaking and adjudication. It requires, for example, that affected persons be given adequate notice of proposed rules, and an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules, and that, in cases in which another statute requires that the agency provide a hearing "on the record", the parties are given adequate opportunity to present facts and argument and the hearing officer is impartial. The Act gives interested persons the right to petition an agency for the issuance, amendment, or repeal of a rule. It also provides standards for judicial review of agency actions.

National Environmental Policy Act

Every proposal for a major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment a detailed statement on, among other things, the environmental impact of the proposed action and alternatives to the proposed action. The statement is to accompany the proposal through the agency review process. The Act also established in the Executive Office of the President a Council on Environmental Quality, which has issued regulations on the preparation of environmental impact statements, and on public participation in the preparation of the statements.

Politics Surrounding Nuclear Power

Nuclear Now

John McCarthy of Stanford University

Nuclear Power: Energy for Today and Tomorrow

Often, Environmentalism and Nuclear Power are seen as mutually exclusive. This page is designed to educate citizens about the environmental benefits of nuclear power.

Nuclear Power: Clean, Safe, and Needing a Level Playing Field

Some myths get in the way. There's the notion that the United States or the European Union could - if they chose - be independent of oil imports. There's the misconception that nuclear power is the most dangerous energy source, whereas it's the safest. And there's the delusion that alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind and biomass, can replace fossil fuels and nuclear power while maintaining modern living standards. Widespread faith in these myths has inhibited the development of a realistic energy policy.

Clean, Safe And Cost-Efficient Nuclear Power Can Change California's Gray Skies To Blue

The rediscovery of nuclear energy's benefits is heartening and the industry's future is bright because its record of meeting society's electricity needs safely, reliably and economically is unsurpassed.

Energy Future Includes Clean Nuclear Power

If we want affordable, clean and reliable energy through this century, nuclear power must be part of our national energy strategy.

Nuclear Reaction: Why Do Americans Fear Nuclear Power?

PBS Special on Nuclear Power

Top scientists back nuclear power

The UK will be unable to cut greenhouse gas emissions without new nuclear power stations, the country's top science academy has warned.

A Case for Nuclear-Generated Electricity: (Or Why I Think Nuclear Power Is Cool and Why It Is Important That You Think So Too) The Environmental Case for Nuclear Power: Economic, Medical, and Political Considerations Nuclear Engineering: Theory and Technology of Commercial Nuclear Power Nuclear Reactor Physics
Purchase these excellent books on nuclear power at
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