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Clean Air

Nuclear power plants play a major role in overall compliance with the Clean Air Act of 1970, which set standards to improve the nation's air quality. Because they generate heat from fission rather than burning fuel, they produce no greenhouse gases or emissions associated with acid rain or urban smog. Using more nuclear energy gives states additional flexibility in complying with clean-air requirements.

No Criteria Pollutants

The Clean Air Act of 1970 established limits on the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx ), a precursor of ground-level ozone and smog; sulfur dioxide, which produces acid rain; particulate matter, such as smoke and dust; and mercury. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed extensive regulations to reduce nitrogen oxides through creation of the Ozone Transport Commission and the NOx Budget Program—both initiatives created under the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 to help reduce ground-level ozone in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Nuclear power plants do not produce these criteria pollutants.

No Greenhouse Gases

Nuclear power plants produce nearly two-thirds of all electricity that doesn't emit greenhouse gases in the process of generating power for American homes and businesses. Carbon dioxide—the principal greenhouse gas—is a major focus of policy discussions to reduce emissions. Nuclear power plants, which do not emit carbon dioxide, account for the majority of voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the electric power sector, according to a 2007 report from Power Partners (pdf), a partnership between the electric power industry and the U.S. Department of Energy.