The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Energy

The National Academies

What You Need To Know About Energy

Advanced Nuclear Fission

Although nuclear power plants account for 20% of U.S. electricity generation, no new reactors have come on line since 1996. Designs conceived in the 1990s (so-called Generation III+) may provide significant improvements in economics and safety. Consortia of companies are working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to secure federal approval for these types of nuclear power plants, and several utilities recently requested approval of a combined construction and operating license. Generation III+ plants are also under construction in Europe and Asia, with the first scheduled to come on line in 2009 in Finland.

Although nuclear power plants account for 20% of U.S. electricity generation, no new reactors have come on line since 1996.

Longer term advances could broaden the desirability and future use of nuclear energy. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has engaged other governments, international and domestic industry, and the research community to develop “Generation IV” systems. The goals of these efforts are to improve the economics, safety, fuel-cycle waste management, and proliferation resistance of nuclear reactors, as well as widen their applications. DOE is pursuing the demonstration of one such design, a very-high temperature reactor, through its Next Generation Nuclear Plant program, and the facility is scheduled to begin operations by 2021.

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Energy Hands-on

What do you know about energy?

By 2030, today's coal-fired power plants are projected to emit how much less CO2 than they emit now?

  • Correct!

    Coal-fired power plants are likely to emit 30% less CO2 in 2030.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Coal-fired power plants are likely to emit 30% less CO2 in 2030.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    Coal-fired power plants are likely to emit 30% less CO2 in 2030.

Energy Defined

Global Warming

A term used to describe the phenomenon of Earth’s rising average near-surface temperature. Although such fluctuations have occurred in the past due to natural causes, the term is most often used today to refer to current warming trends. Most scientists have concluded that this is very likely due to the observed increase in human-generated greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

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