Currently, nuclear power provides approximately 19% of the total electricity generated in the United States and approximately 15% of the world's electricity. In 2007, 439 nuclear reactors located in 31 countries generated over 2,698 TWh1 of electricity2. Of these, 104 nuclear power plants are located in the United States and generated a total of 806.5 TWh of electricity [1]. Over the next 40 years, the number of reactors in the U.S. and in the world is expected to grow as the world's demand for electricity becomes greater. These increases will be due to both population growth and the expanded use of electricity, with much of the growth associated with increases in electrical use in China, the rest of Asia, and the other third world

*The findings included in this chapter do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the Environmental Protection Agency. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute Agency endorsement or recommendation for use. t © US Government 2011

1 TWh = Terawatt-hours = billion kilowatt-hours

2 A. Baratta (*)

Anthony J Baratta, US Nuclear regulatory Commission, Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, MS T3-F23, Washington, DC 20555-0001. e-mail: [email protected]

F.T. Princiotta (ed.), Global Climate Change - The Technology Challenge, Advances in Global Change Research 38, DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-3153-2_4, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

World Net Electric Power Generation through 2030 (source EIA 2009)






Fig. 4.1 Actual and projected world net electrical energy production in trillion killowatt hours through 2030 (U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) [2])

developing economies. Figure 4.1 depicts the expected growth in electricity consumption worldwide.

Another factor influencing the growth of nuclear energy is the concern over carbon emissions. There is growing interest by the public, and by some government officials, in decreasing the emission of greenhouse gasses. The exact way in which these policies will be implemented has yet to be determined. What is clear is that those technologies that emit greenhouse gasses will be penalized in favor of those that are low emitters.

Because nuclear power does not burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, it is often cited as a currently available source of electricity that could contribute to the lowering of greenhouse gases. To do so, nuclear reactors must be built at a rate greater than ever before. Several challenges must be overcome to achieve such a rate and include the availability of funding for construction, the lack of infrastructure for component manufacture, concerns over nuclear safety, the lack of a politically acceptable method to dispose of the spent fuel, and the lack of trained and experienced workers to build and operate these new facilities.

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