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Energy and the Environment: Nuclear Power

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Selected Web Sites

Electricity from Nuclear Energy : The purpose of this EPA web page is to give consumers a better idea of the specific air, water, land, and radioactive waste releases associated with nuclear power electricity generation. 

Future of Nuclear Power : The U.S.--and the world--is gearing up to build a potentially massive fleet of new nuclear reactors, in part to fight climate change. But can nuclear power handle the load? A special issue of Scientific American. 

International Atomic Energy Agency : The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Is Nuclear Energy Our Best Hope? : Despite its negative image, nuclear energy may be the most efficient and realistic means of meeting the rapidly-growing demand for power in the United States. Article by Gwyneth Cravens, Discover, April 25, 2008.

ITER : A large-scale scientific experiment that aims to demonstrate that it is possible to produce commercial energy from fusion. Researchers in France are building both the world's first nuclear fusion plant and support for atomic energy.

Nuclear Basics 101 (DOE) : Nuclear power accounts for about 19 percent of the total electricity generated in the United States, an amount comparable to all the electricity used in California,Texas and New York, our three most populous (having the most people) states. A nuclear power plant operates basically the same way as a fossil fuel plant, with one difference: the source of heat. The process that produces the heat in a nuclear plant is the fissioning or splitting of uranium atoms. That heat boils water to make the steam that turns the turbine-generator, just as in a fossil fuel plant. The part of the plant where the heat is produced is called the reactor core.

Nuclear Energy and Society : Only 30 years ago, nuclear energy was an exotic, futuristic technology, the subject of experimentation and far fetched ideas. Today, nuclear energy is America's second largest source of electric power after coal. More than 110 nuclear energy plants supply more electricity than oil, natural gas or hydropower. Since 1973, they have saved American consumers approximately $44 billion, compared to the other fuels that would have been used to make electricity. Since our electricity system is interconnected, practically every American gets some electricity from nuclear energy. In addition to the economic benefits achieved through the use of nuclear energy, there are environmental benefits as well. There are, however, various drawbacks caused by the production of electricity through nuclear power. Although there are various risks involved when using nuclear energy as a source of power, we argue that the benefits greatly outweigh any potential problems that may arise. Ilan Lipper & Jon Stone, University of Michigan students, 1998.

Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) : 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. 

Nuclear Energy Issues : Nuclear energy has long posed a dilemma for environmentalists. As a cheap, clean source of power that does not use fossil fuels or add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, it offers an appealing alternative to power from traditional coal-fired plants. Yet nuclear energy is associated with troubling environmental issues, including the problem of radioactive waste disposal. Proquest Discovery Guide, March 2002.

Nuclear Power's Role in Generating Electricity : Concerns about the adequacy of electricity supply and the impact of greenhouse-gas emissions on the environment have prompted policymakers to reevaluate the role that nuclear power might play in the future in meeting the nation's demand for electricity. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) offers incentives for expanding utilities' capacity to generate electricity using innovative fossil-fuel technologies and a new generation of nuclear reactors that are designed to decrease costs and enhance safety. In addition, policymakers are considering various proposals that would impose charges on entities that emit carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas. Such policies could further encourage the use of nuclear power, which emits no such gases, by increasing the cost of generating electricity with competing fossil-fuel technologies. At the request of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessed the competitiveness of nuclear power when compared with other sources of new capacity to generate electricity, focusing on the possible effects of constraints on carbon dioxide emissions and the impact of EPAct incentives. In accordance with CBO's mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, this study makes no recommendations. Congressional Budget Office. May 2008.

U.S. Department of Energy Nuclear Energy : The mission of the Office of Nuclear Energy is to lead the DOE investment in the development and exploration of advanced nuclear science and technology. NE leads the Government’s efforts to develop new nuclear energy generation technologies; to develop advanced, proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel technologies that maximize energy from nuclear fuel; and to maintain and enhance the national nuclear technology infrastructure. NE aims to serve the present and future energy needs of the Nation by managing the safe operation and maintenance of the DOE nuclear infrastructure that provides nuclear technology goods and services. NE manages research laboratories and radiological facilities and is the Lead Program Secretarial Officer for the Idaho National Laboratory.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission : The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was created as an independent agency by Congress in 1974 to enable the nation to safely use radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while ensuring that people and the environment are protected. The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements.

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