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Nuclear Power
Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant by Tony the Misfit on Flickr

  • Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and do useful work. 
  • Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity.  
  • In 2007, the IAEA reported there were 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries. Also, more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion have been built.

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Don't Nuke the Climate by Erland Howden on Flickr

  • There is an ongoing debate about the use of nuclear energy.
  • Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association and IAEA, contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions.
  • Opponents, such as Greenpeace International and NIRS, believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment.

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fukushima explosions from air, taken by global Hawk drone. by daveeza on Flickr

Nuclear power plant accidents include 

  • the Chernobyl disaster (1986), Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (2011), 
  • the Three Mile Island accident (1979). 
Three reactors at Fukushima I overheated, causing meltdowns that eventually led to explosions, which released large amounts of radioactive material into the air.

There have also been some nuclear-powered submarine mishaps. However, the safety record of nuclear power is good when compared with many other energy technologies. 

Research into safety improvements is continuing and nuclear fusion may be used in the future.

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Japan Apocalypse IMG_7332 by Abode of Chaos on Flickr

One of the worst nuclear accidents to date was the Chernobyl disaster which occurred in 1986 in Ukraine. 
  • That accident killed 56 people directly, and caused an estimated 4,000 additional cases of fatalities related to cancer, as well as damaging approximately $7 billion of property.  
  • Radioactive fallout from the accident was concentrated in areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. 
  • Approximately 350,000 people were forcibly resettled away from these areas soon after the accident.
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Nuclear logo rusty metal by Simon Strandgaard on Flickr

  • Fukushima Dai-ichi is a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. 
  • The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors designed and built by General Electric (GE), and maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). 
  • The Fukushima disaster is the largest of the 2011 Japanese nuclear accidents and is the largest nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, but it is more complex as multiple reactors and spent fuel pools are involved.
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