Fact Sheets

Quick Facts: Nuclear Energy in America

This fact sheet highlights nuclear as a reliable source of energy and includes information on environmental and economic benefits, safety and used fuel issues, and public opinion data.


August 2013

 

Safety

· U.S. nuclear energy facilities are held to the highest of standards by independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors, who conduct ongoing oversight at each reactor every day.

· To maintain high levels of safety, plant officials plan for the unexpected with layer upon layer of redundant safety features.

· U.S. nuclear energy facilities have four-foot-thick concrete and steel containment domes that surround the reactor, plus backup safety systems that function in the event of an emergency.

· The nuclear energy industry began making immediate safety improvements as part of a self-assessment of U.S. nuclear facilities within days of the 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The industry has committed to work in the short and long term to ensure that lessons learned are well-understood and that improvements are effectively coordinated and implemented industrywide.

 

Reliable Electricity

· One hundred nuclear facilities in 31 states provide nearly 20 percent of all U.S. electricity.

· Nuclear energy generated 769.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2012.

· Improved efficiency and technologies at U.S. nuclear energy facilities since 1990 have led to an increase in electricity production capable of powering more than 16 million homes, the equivalent of building 24 new nuclear reactors.

· The industry has added more than 6,800 megawatts of capacity through facility improvements called uprates—enough to power 4.7 million homes.

· Nuclear energy facilities generate electricity 24/7 at an 86 percent capacity factor. This is more efficient than other types of energy—combined-cycle natural gas, with a 56 percent capacity factor; coal-fired at 55 percent; and wind at 31 percent.

 

Uranium Fuel

· One uranium fuel pellet creates as much energy as one ton of coal or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

· Significant uranium resources are available from U.S. sources or friendly trading partners such as   Canada and Australia.

· A typical large nuclear energy facility produces enough electricity for more than 690,000 homes while using only 20 metric tons of uranium fuel each year.

· The volume of used nuclear fuel rods created over the past 40 years—69,720 metric tons—would cover one football field 7 yards deep.

· The U.S. nuclear industry has built a comprehensive system for safely and securely storing used fuel that keeps the public and environment safe. Used fuel rods are stored safely in steel-lined, water-filled concrete vaults or in concrete and steel containers at each nuclear energy facility site.

 

Economic Benefits

· Production costs at nuclear energy facilities in 2012 averaged 2.40 cents per kilowatt-hour, cheaper than coal (3.27 cents) and natural gas-fueled plants (3.40 cents).

· The average nuclear energy facility pays approximately $16 million in state and local taxes and $67 million in federal taxes annually.

· Each nuclear energy facility generates about $470 million annually in sales of goods and services in the local community.

· Approximately $40 million is spent annually in wages at each facility.

· Nine license applications are being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for 14 new reactors.

· Five new nuclear reactors are under construction in three states: Georgia (Vogtle 3 and 4), South Carolina (V.C. Summer 2 and 3) and Tennessee (Watts Bar 2).

· One reactor creates up to 3,500 jobs at peak construction.

· A new nuclear energy facility creates 500 permanent jobs per 1,000 megawatts of electricity generating capacity, compared to 190 jobs for a coal plant, 50 for a wind farm and 50 for a natural gas plant.

· An equivalent number of additional jobs are expected to be created indirectly with each project.

 

Environmental Benefits

· Nuclear energy produces more clean-air energy than any other source and is the only one that can produce large amounts of electricity 24/7. Nuclear energy produces 64 percent of all U.S. emission-free electricity.

· In 2012, nuclear energy facilities prevented 569.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions from 110 million cars.

· Nuclear energy facilities also prevented the emission of 1 million short tons of sulfur dioxide and 0.47 million short tons of nitrogen oxide in 2012.

· A nuclear energy facility’s life-cycle carbon emissions—including mining and producing fuel and construction of the plant—are among the lowest of any electricity generation source at 17 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per gigawatt-hour, comparable to geothermal (15 tons) and wind (14 tons).

· Protecting the environment extends to safely managing used fuel, protecting water quality and preserving and improving habitat for plants and wildlife. All U.S. nuclear energy facilities have extensive environmental monitoring programs, which are under the oversight of the NRC and state regulators.

 

Top 10 Nuclear Energy Countries Billion Kilowatt-Hours Generated in 2012

United States

769.3

Germany

94.1

France

404.9

Canada

91.0

Russian Federation

165.6

Ukraine

84.8

South Korea

143.5

United Kingdom

64.0

China

98.2

Sweden

61.5