Nuclear energy is a proven and innovative technology, with more than 50 years of safe and reliable operation in the U.S. Nuclear energy is a secure, dependable source of power that the nation can depend on. It is not subject to unreliable weather or climate conditions. Nuclear fuel costs have been much less volatile than other fuel sources.
The world-wide nuclear industry has achieved a superb reliability record during its more than 13,000 reactor years of operation. Currently, about 430 reactors in 30 countries provide about 15 percent of the world's electricity. Today, more energy is produced from nuclear power than was produced from all sources in 1960.
In Europe, nuclear energy is the largest single source of power generation, producing 32 percent of the total generation. In Japan, the nuclear share of electricity is about 30 percent, and in South Korea it is 37 percent. France gets about 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy. Most of France's nuclear power plants were built within a single decade.
In 2008, U.S. nuclear plants demonstrated high levels of reliability, with a capacity factor of 91.5 percent. There has been an upward trend in the capacity factor for U.S. commercial nuclear power plants since the 1980s. (Capacity factor measures a plant's on-line production time.) Safe, reliable operational records like these drive public and political confidence in the industry and provide a solid platform for license renewal as well as construction of new plants.
Nuclear power plants produce uninterrupted electricity for extended periods of time — for as long as 24 months. They help supply the necessary level of baseload electricity for electric system operation. Nuclear energy plants are a key element in the stability of the U.S. power system.
Nuclear energy provides much of the world's baseload power. Baseload plants are the production facilities used to meet most of a region's continuous energy demand. These plants produce energy at a constant rate, most often at a low cost relative to other available sources of power. Baseload plants typically run at all times throughout the year, except in the case of repairs or scheduled maintenance.
Nuclear energy produces electricity for one in five U.S. homes and businesses.
Nuclear power plants aid compliance with the Clean Air Act of 1970, which set standards to improve the nation's air quality.