Nuclear power

This article is about the power source. For nation states that are nuclear powers, see List of states with nuclear weapons.

Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and do useful work. Nuclear Electric Plants, Nuclear Ships and Submarines use controlled nuclear energy to heat water and produce steam, while in space, nuclear energy decays naturally in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. Scientists are experimenting with fusion energy for future generation, but these experiments do not currently generate useful energy.

Nuclear power provides 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. Also, more than 150 naval vessels using nuclear propulsion have been built.

Nuclear power is controversial and 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.

Some serious nuclear and radiation accidents have occurred. Nuclear power plant accidents include the Chernobyl disaster (1986), Fukushima I nuclear accidents (2011), and the Three Mile Island accident (1979). Nuclear-powered submarine mishaps include the K-19 reactor accident (1961), the K-27 reactor accident (1968), and the K-431 reactor accident (1985). International research is continuing into safety improvements such as passively safe plants, and the possible future use of nuclear fusion.