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?

Most of the world's energy originates from which two primary sources:

  • Correct!

    The energy we capture for use on Earth comes largely from the sun or from nuclear forces local to our own planet.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The energy we capture for use on Earth comes largely from the sun or from nuclear forces local to our own planet.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The energy we capture for use on Earth comes largely from the sun or from nuclear forces local to our own planet.

Energy Defined

Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC)

A process which helps improve the efficiency of natural gas power plants by capturing some of the waste heat given off by the combustion of natural gas in order to turn a steam turbine to generate electricity.

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