Saturday, 19 March 2011

Nuclear power

Nuclear power is produced by controlled (i.e., non-explosive) nuclear reactions. Commercial and utility plants currently use nuclear fission reactions to heat water to produce steam, which is then used to generate electricity.

Nuclear power provides about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity,[1] with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity.[2] 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.[3][4] Proponents, such as the World Nuclear Association and IAEA, contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions.[5] Anti-nuclear opponents, such as Greenpeace International and NIRS, believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment.[6][7][8]

Some serious nuclear and radiation accidents have occurred with nuclear-powered submarines and with nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plant accidents include the Chernobyl disaster (1986), Fukushima I nuclear accidents (2011), and the Three Mile Island accident (1979).[9] Nuclear submarine mishaps include the K-19 reactor accident (1961),[10] the K-27 reactor accident (1968),[11] and the K-431 reactor accident (1985).[9] International research is continuing into safety improvements such as passively safe plants,[12] and the possible future use of nuclear fusion.

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