Fact Sheets

Nuclear energy is proven safe and is essential to the United States’ reliable, affordable electricity supply. We know America needs more electricity to meet our growing demands—but we also want clean air. With nuclear energy, we can have both.
  • Nuclear energy powers our energy-intensive lifestyle at an affordable price. On average, production costs for nuclear energy are about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, lower than other major electricity sources.
  • Nuclear energy provides affordable, reliable electricity to one in five American homes and businesses, with facilities producing power around the clock to deliver reliable electricity.
  • The majority of Americans and our elected leaders favor the use of nuclear energy and value nuclear energy as part of our nation’s energy policy to power economic growth and maintain U.S. leadership in the energy sector.
o By more than a two-to-one margin, Americans favor the use of nuclear energy as a way to produce electricity. They see nuclear energy as important to the future. That’s why 81 percent of Americans believe that nuclear energy will play an important role in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead, according to a nationwide poll by Bisconti Research Inc./GfK Roper in February.

o Energy policy recommendations by Republican and Democratic governors alike and both parties’ presidential campaign platform include nuclear energy as an important part of America’s energy policy. In addition, the policy recommendations of both the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Black Caucus of State Legislators call for expansion of nuclear energy.
  • The nuclear energy industry is putting Americans back to work in jobs that won’t be outsourced to other countries. The nuclear energy sector has hired more than 41,000 new employees since 2005 and thousands of additional jobs are being created by new reactor construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The nuclear energy industry’s first priority has been, and always will be, safety. Nuclear energy facilities are among the safest and most secure industrial facilities in the United States. The industry is continually improving design standards, operational safety, personnel training and emergency preparedness programs to ensure the safety of our communities, our workers and the environment.
  • Nuclear energy facilities are held to exacting safety standards by the independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which conducts inspections at each facility every day.
  • Nuclear energy facilities have layer upon layer of safety systems that prevent the release of radioactive materials. One of these layers is a containment building that houses the reactor, which typically is four-foot-thick concrete and steel construction.
  • The U.S. nuclear energy industry has responded promptly to incorporate lessons learned from best practices as well as challenges to plant safety, as it did in response to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan. Within a week after the accident, the industry triple-checked safety protocols—particularly to protect against extreme events such as earthquakes or floods. Today, companies are installing portable safety equipment at America’s nuclear energy facilities that add yet another layer of protection against extreme natural events.
  • Thorough NRC inspections, together with industry self-examinations, confirmed the safety of U.S. nuclear facilities in the wake of the Fukushima accident.

Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, their components and the technology to produce nuclear materials is a global imperative that requires the participation and cooperation of industry and nations. Nuclear energy facilities are models of industrial security and include multiple barriers to ensure nuclear materials remain safe from intruders.
  • All nuclear material, including uranium fuel, is strictly managed and accounted for at U.S. nuclear energy facilities and closely regulated by the NRC.
  • To combat the threat of proliferation, the international nuclear energy community has adopted robust controls to ensure that it can fully account for and secure nuclear materials manufactured for the production of electricity, along with their byproducts. Controls include global monitoring by international inspectors and stringent national inspection programs.
  • Nuclear energy facilities in the United States are among the most secure industrial facilities in the United States. Each facility has layer upon layer of protection, including physical barriers, a highly trained workforce, a dedicated security and response force, physical barriers and illuminated detection zones, intrusion detection and other sophisticated security technology.

Many people have questions and concerns about radiation. The nuclear energy industry respects radiation and what it can do if we don’t take the proper precautions. That’s why the nuclear energy industry for decades has had high-quality programs in place to monitor the smallest of emissions and any radioactive materials, and to monitor the environment near nuclear energy facilities to ensure the protection and health of workers and the public as well as the environment. All of this environmental monitoring is reported publicly to state government leaders and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Every nuclear energy facility has a professional, highly trained radiation safety staff to continuously monitor and control radiation dose at safe levels.
  • If an inadvertent release of radioactive material should occur, monitoring is conducted to fully assess the extent of the release and to confirm that any potential radiation dose is within the radiation safety limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the NRC. The monitoring results and radiation dose, if there is any, for all releases are reported publicly to the NRC.
  • The industry also has robust environmental monitoring programs that would detect radiation in the soil, plants, water, fish and livestock should there be a release of radiation. Monitoring equipment is positioned within the plant and at the plant site boundaries, and regular sampling of water from nearby surface and underground water bodies is conducted. All of this information is reported publicly to state officials. Many states have their own monitoring programs in place as well.
  • Study after study has confirmed that residents near nuclear energy facilities experience no adverse health effects. Studies by the National Institute of Health and the American Cancer Society, for example, have concluded that cancer mortalities in counties near nuclear plant are no different than other communities.

Used uranium fuel from nuclear facilities is safely stored at nuclear energy facility sites pending policy decisions to determine options for final disposal or reuse.
  • All of the used nuclear fuel produced by the U.S. nuclear energy industry in 50 years of operation (62,500 metric tons) would, if stacked end to end, cover an area the size of a football field to a depth of about seven yards.
  • Used fuel is a solid material that is stored safely and securely at nuclear energy facility sites, either in enclosed, steel-lined concrete pools filled with water, or in steel or reinforced concrete containers with steel inner canisters. The NRC determined that used fuel could be stored safely at power plant sites or central storage facilities for at least 120 years. However, this storage was never intended to be permanent.
  • Given the confidence of the scientific community in deep geological disposal, the most challenging issue today is determining a policy direction for managing this material. After halting decades of study at the proposed Yucca Mountain disposal facility in Nevada, policymakers are exploring alternative options. The president’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future has presented policy options that Congress is expected to consider in 2013.