Nuclear

NUCLEAR

For the last 30 years, nuclear power has consistently provided around 20 percent of annual electricity generation in the United States, and half of the country’s carbon-free energy. But while efficiency updates increase output, allowing fewer reactors to provide the same amount of electricity, the average nuclear reactor is almost 40 years old and more than a dozen have been shuttered. Just one new reactor has come online since 1996, though two more are expected in by 2022. For a host of reasons, the legacy of nuclear power in the United States includes years-long delays in construction, power plants abandoned before they were even completed, and massive cost overruns that are passed on to the public.

Early in 2020, though, the federal Department of Energy announced its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which calls for construction of two new prototype nuclear reactors within seven years. It may or may not happen, depending on who one asks: as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall and natural gas remains abundant and inexpensive, new nuclear reactors simply may not be cost-competitive.

Additionally, in April 2020, the DOE announced its Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy Leadership, which includes a plan to increase domestic uranium mining and establish a national uranium reserve.

The coming decade will be pivotal to nuclear power’s future in the United States. Supporters cite climate change as one very important reason to ramp up construction of new reactors, as it is ever more critical to prevent the greenhouse gases which burning still more fossil fuels would produce. Opponents point to concern about the security of nuclear material in an age of terrorism, the very long-term storage of radioactive waste (thousands of years), and the fear of an accidental release of radiation, as happened in Japan in 2011, in the former Soviet Union in 1986, and in Pennsylvania in 1979.

What is Nuclear Energy? | National Geographic

CURRENT NEWS

Second new Georgia reactor begins splitting atoms in key step to making electricity

By Jeff Amy 02/14/24
A nuclear power plant in Georgia has begun splitting atoms in the second of its two new reactors, Georgia Power said Wednesday, a key step toward providing carbon-free electricity.
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Is Nuclear Energy Having a Renaissance?

By Nicole Pollack 02/12/24
For a while there, nuclear energy looked like it was on its way out. After taking off post-World War II, it lost momentum toward the dawn of the 21st century, when sagging public support and…
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Donalds Leads Colleagues In Advocating For Historic American Nuclear Energy Project

01/30/24
Yesterday, Congressman Byron Donalds (R-FL) sent a letter to the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, seeking to expedite the historic revitalization of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant with safe, reliable, and efficient nuclear energy technology.
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Biden administration finalizes a $1.1 billion aid package for California’s last nuclear power plant

01/18/24
President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday finalized approval of $1.1 billion to help keep California’s last operating nuclear power plant running.
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Inside the Nuclear Fusion Facility That Changed the World

By Alejandro de la Garza 01/11/24
Shortly after 1 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 5, 2022, Dave Schlossberg, an experimental physicist at National Ignition Facility (NIF), was woken by a phone call. A fusion experiment using NIF’s massive lasers was…
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DOE docs: Carbon removal proposal bets on rare nuclear reactors

By Corbin Hiar 01/03/24
A climate technology startup aims to suck carbon from the atmosphere using a new type of nuclear power plant that’s never been built in the United States.
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Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs measure lifting Illinois’ moratorium on new nuclear power plants

By Dan Petrella and Jeremy Gorner 12/08/23
A nearly four-decade moratorium on the construction of nuclear plants in Illinois will end next year under a measure signed Friday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who vetoed an earlier version of the bill.
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22 Countries Pledge to Triple Nuclear Capacity in Push to Cut Fossil Fuels

By Jenny Gross 12/02/23
The United States and 21 other countries pledged on Saturday at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050, saying the revival of nuclear power was critical for cutting…
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U.S. Bets on Small Nuclear Reactors to Help Fix a Huge Climate Problem

By Brad Plumer 11/12/23
Towering over the Savannah River in Georgia, the first nuclear reactors built from scratch in the United States in more than 30 years illustrate the enormous promise of nuclear power — and its most glaring…
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First US Small Nuke Project Canceled After Costs Surge 53%

By Will Wade 11/09/23
NuScale Power Corp., the first company with US approval for a small nuclear reactor design, is canceling plans to build a power plant for a Utah provider as costs surge. The move is a major…
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First planned small nuclear reactor plant in the US has been canceled

By John Timmer 11/09/23
Nuclear power provides energy that is largely free of carbon emissions and can play a significant role in helping deal with climate change. But in most industrialized countries, the construction of nuclear plants tends to…
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Democratic Governors Block Bills For New Nuclear Power Plants

By Alexander C. Kaufman 10/21/23
In just the last three months, the Democratic governors of Illinois and North Carolina have vetoed bills to build new reactors in their states, warning that doing so would divert money and attention from a…
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KEY RESOURCES

Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)

05/09/23
Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are a key part of the Department’s goal to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. The advanced SMRs currently under development in the United States represent a variety…

The Future History of Nuclear Fusion

04/21/23
Letter from 2073: Fifty years ago, fusion energy was a ludicrous pipe dream. Now it powers everything. Dr. Tritium takes you back to the pioneers of nuclear prosperity.

Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

09/24/22
The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, representing more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation. America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity. The…

Consent-Based Siting

08/02/22
Management of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste is the Department of Energy’s responsibility. This includes finding sites to store and dispose of the spent nuclear fuel. DOE is committed to a…

What is Nuclear Fusion?

03/31/22
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light atomic nuclei combine to form a single heavier one while releasing massive amounts of energy. Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma…

Critique of NYSERDA’s Draft Plan

03/10/22
This document is a critique of the “New York State Climate Action Council’s Draft Scoping Plan” prepared by NYSERDA with the assistance of E3 and Abt Associates, herein called the NYSERDA Draft Plan.

No, nuclear power is not actually ‘dangerous’

11/19/21
The global heating catastrophe being fostered by humanity’s proclivity to burn fossil fuels for energy is an emergency. An all-hands-on-deck emergency. An employ-every-tool-in-the-toolbox emergency. Despite that, a myth persists that blocks humankind’s use of the…

Backgrounder on the Three Mile Island Accident

11/05/21
The Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive…

What is nuclear waste, and what do we do with it?

11/05/21
Like all industries and energy-producing technologies, the use of nuclear energy results in some waste products. There are three types of nuclear waste, classified according to their radioactivity: low-, intermediate-, and high-level. The vast majority…

A Nuclear Innovation Company

11/01/21
With the growing demand for electricity, TerraPower entered the nuclear energy arena because its founders saw clean energy as the pathway to lift billions out of poverty. The company has since expanded that vision to…

Putting Nuclear Power In Perspective: An Interview with David Watson

10/07/21
"Beating climate change is hard enough without taking away one of the best low-carbon tools we have. It’s time to talk about nuclear." --David Watson

Storage and Disposal of Radioactive Waste

05/01/21
Most low-level radioactive waste (LLW) is typically sent to land-based disposal immediately following its packaging for long-term management. This means that for the majority (~90% by volume) of all of the waste types produced by…

How Advanced Nuclear Got on the Map

04/08/21
Advanced nuclear could play a critical role in getting the domestic and global electricity sector to net-zero emissions by 2050, decarbonizing industrial processes, and producing green hydrogen. These contributions from new nuclear technologies are possible,…

Nuclear Power is the Most Reliable Energy Source and It’s Not Even Close

03/24/21
Nuclear energy is America’s work horse. It’s been rolling up its sleeves for six decades now to provide constant, reliable, carbon-free power to millions of Americans. Just how reliable has nuclear energy been? It has…

Civilian Nuclear Power

02/22/21
A Report to the president-1962

Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

08/14/20
Advanced nuclear energy systems hold enormous potential to lower emissions, create new jobs, and build an even stronger economy. The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) will speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S.…

The Health and Environmental Impact of Uranium Mining

06/26/20
Nuclear is an efficient and powerful energy source with life cycle carbon emissions that are as low as some renewable sources. While not as popular as liquid and coal, nuclear power plants still generate a…

Three Mile Island Accident

03/01/20
In 1979 at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in USA a cooling malfunction caused part of the core to melt in the #2 reactor. The TMI-2 reactor was destroyed. Some radioactive gas was released…

A beginner’s guide to the debate over nuclear power and climate change

12/19/19
Guess what? You don’t have to be “pro-nuclear” or “anti-nuclear.”

How the US Nuclear Debate Transcends Traditional Party Lines

08/22/17
Democrat and Republican policy experts weigh in on how to value reliable and low-carbon energy resources.

MORE NEWS

How the U.S. betrayed the Marshall Islands, kindling the next nuclear disaster

By SUSANNE RUST   11/10/19  
The Fukushima disaster sparked a worldwide phaseout of nuclear reactors. As climate change worsens, it may be time to reconsider.
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How the U.S. betrayed the Marshall Islands, kindling the next nuclear disaster

By Susanne Rust   11/10/19  
Five thousand miles west of Los Angeles and 500 miles north of the equator, on a far-flung spit of white coral sand in the central Pacific, a massive, aging and weathered concrete dome bobs up…
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Here’s What Happens if You Replace Nuclear with Onshore Wind or Solar.

By David Watson   09/13/19  
Solar and wind energy have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. The upfront price tag for these intermittent sources of energy continues to fall. However, it’s worth looking beyond those capital costs…
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How THE CHINA SYNDROME Brought Down The Nuclear Power Industry

By Andrew Todd   06/28/19  
When we think about nuclear power, we tend to think about disasters. Real life has given us plenty of reason to do so: between Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, three major global powers have…
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How The China Syndrome Brought Down The Nuclear Power Industry

By Andrew Todd   06/28/19  
When we think about nuclear power, we tend to think about disasters. Real life has given us plenty of reason to do so: between Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, three major global powers have…
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‘It’s the future’: How going small may fuel nuclear power’s comeback

By Jacqueline Hansen   06/25/19  
'It's the future': How going small may fuel nuclear power's comeback Canada is positioning itself up to be a leader in a new age of nuclear power by exploring the use of small modular reactors…
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Department of Energy change could send radioactive waste to Utah and Texas

By Leia Larsen   06/14/19  
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced plans to downgrade certain types of high-level radioactive waste. The move could help facilities send World War II and Cold War-era waste to shallow disposal sites in…
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IEA rings alarm bell on phasing out nuclear energy

By Geert De Clercq   05/27/19  
A steep decline in nuclear energy capacity will threaten climate goals and power supply security unless advanced economies find a way to extend the lifespan of their reactors, the International Energy Agency said.
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I oversaw the U.S. nuclear power industry. Now I think it should be banned.

By Gregory Jaczko   05/17/19  
Nuclear power was supposed to save the planet. The plants that used this technology could produce enormous amounts of electricity without the pollution caused by burning coal, oil or natural gas, which would help slow…
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In a time of cheap fossil fuels, nuclear power companies are seeking – and getting – big subsidies

By Talia Buford   04/18/19  
Illinois and New York have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-energy incentives for nuclear power companies. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland could be next.
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Nuclear and the climate: the good, the bad and the long-term.

By Desiree A. Rammon   04/10/19  
A skeptic’s analysis of the role of nuclear power in the fight against climate change.
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Ohio GOP lines up bill to save FirstEnergy nuclear plants

By Gavin Bade   04/08/19  
Ohio Republicans are reportedly circulating legislation that would provide financial support to FirstEnergy’s two nuclear plants slated for closure in the state.
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Rewarding failure: Taxpayers on hook for $12 billion nuclear boondoggle

By Debbie Dooley and Sara Barczak   04/02/19  
There was plenty of fanfare recently at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle nuclear construction site with elected officials, including Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp and all five Georgia Public Service Commissioners, clamoring for photo ops with U.S. Energy…
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Rick Perry calls expanding nuclear energy “the real” Green New Deal

By Dino Grandoni   03/25/19  
President Trump loves to talk about coal-fired power: Whenever he travels to West Virginia or Kentucky he boasts of bringing back “beautiful clean coal.”
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Plutonium Shipment Highlights Nuclear Contradictions

By Peter Sinclair   03/25/19  
I’ve never been accused (yet) of being a pro-nuclear shill, but we’re going to have to take a clear-eyed view of our nuclear waste problem, whether or not we go forward with the Nuclear industry.
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First-of-its-kind US nuclear waste dump marks 20 years

By Susan Montoya Bryan   03/23/19  
In a remote stretch of New Mexico desert, the U.S. government put in motion an experiment aimed at proving to the world that radioactive waste could be safely disposed of deep underground, rendering it less…
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There Really, Really Isn’t a Silver Bullet for Climate Change

By Robinson Meyer   03/05/19  
Nuclear power might be part of a Green New Deal, but it can’t meet all U.S. energy needs.
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The new, safer nuclear reactors that might help stop climate change

By Leigh Phillips   02/27/19  
Experts might be lining up behind nuclear, but convincing skeptical voters is something else.
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Should nuclear plants get a bailout in the name of climate change?

By Paulina Firozi   02/26/19  
In 1979, Pennsylvania was the site of one of the worst nuclear accidents in U.S. history. The partial meltdown of a reactor at Three Mile Island launched a wave of antinuclear sentiment that eventually led…
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Does clean energy include nuclear? Pennsylvania is latest state to debate

By Marie Cusick   02/18/19  
Some environmental groups see a proposed nuclear power plant bailout as an opportunity to boost clean energy, too. Clean energy advocates in Pennsylvania are weighing whether to throw their support behind a proposed bailout for…
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In Illinois, potential plant closures reignite nuclear debate

By Jeffrey Tomich / Energywire   02/14/19  
A day after Exelon Corp. CEO Chris Crane had a White House meeting with President Trump, a pair of Illinois Republicans are seeking their own sit-down with the utility executive to discuss what has become…
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Is nuclear power worth the risk?

By Nathanael Johnson   01/22/19  
These five people changed their minds about nuclear power. Are you next?
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‘Bright Future’: New book argues that nuclear power is worth another look

By Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media   01/08/19  
Reducing global warming is a huge challenge. But Joshua Goldstein, Professor Emeritus at American University, says it’s not impossible. The authors say coal is a bigger threat.
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California Wildfire Likely Spread Nuclear Contamination From Toxic Site

By Dahr Jamail   11/26/18  
The fire may also have released large amounts of radiation and toxins into the air after burning through a former rocket engine testing site where a partial nuclear meltdown took place nearly six decades ago.
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California Wildfire Likely Spread Nuclear Contamination From Toxic Site

By Dahr Jamail   11/26/18  
The fire may also have released large amounts of radiation and toxins into the air after burning through a former rocket engine testing site where a partial nuclear meltdown took place nearly six decades ago.
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Report: New England’s Nuclear Plants Will Be Key To Fighting Climate Change

By Annie Ropeik   11/13/18  
A new report suggests New Hampshire's Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant will be essential to curbing the effects of climate change in the coming years. Seabrook and Millstone Station in Connecticut will be the only two…
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The Nuclear Power Dilemma: Declining Profits, Plant Closures, and the Threat of Rising Carbon Emissions

By Steve Clemmer, Jeremy Richardson, Sandra Sattler, Dave Lochbaum   11/01/18  
For decades, nuclear power has provided most of the nation’s carbon-free electricity. However, the owners have shut down many nuclear plants in the last five years or announced plans to close them well before their…
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The Nuclear Power Dilemma

10/09/18  
Nuclear power is the single largest source of low-carbon electricity in the United States. In 2017, some 99 nuclear reactors operating at 60 plants provided 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.
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Fusion start-ups hope to revolutionize energy in the coming decades

By Katherine Bourzac   08/06/18  
Martin Greenwald stands in a windowless control room at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holding a heavy, thick cable in his left hand. Pinched between his right index finger and thumb is a thin strip of…
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