Nuclear Power in the World Today

There are about 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operable in 31 countries, with about 390 GWe of total capacity. About 60 more reactors are under construction. Over 50 countries operate a total of about 220 research reactors and a further 180 nuclear reactors power around 140 ships and submarines.

Outline History of Nuclear Energy

The science of atomic radiation, atomic change and nuclear fission was developed from 1895 to 1945. From 1945 attention was given to harnessing this energy in a controlled fashion for naval propulsion and for making electricity.

World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power

The world will need significantly increased energy supply in the next 30 years, especially cleanly-generated electricity. Electricity demand is increasing much more rapidly than overall energy use.

Accelerator-driven Nuclear Energy

Powerful accelerators may be linked to conventional nuclear reactor technology in an accelerator-driven system (ADS) to transmute long-lived radioisotopes in used nuclear fuel into shorter-lived fission products.

Cooling Power Plants

Like coal and gas-fired plants, nuclear power plants use cooling to condense the steam used to drive the turbines that generate the electricity. Once-through, recirculating or dry cooling may be used. Most nuclear plants also use water to transfer heat from the reactor core.

Cooperation in Nuclear Power

The nuclear power industry has various arrangements for cooperation among utilities, and internationally, among government and United Nations nuclear agencies. The World Association of Nuclear Operators is a valuable means of international assistance.

COVID-19 Coronavirus and Nuclear Energy

Reactor operators have taken steps to protect their workforce and have implemented business continuity plans to ensure the continuing functioning of key aspects of their businesses. Nuclear technologies are also being used to detect and fight the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Electricity and Energy Storage

Energy storage on a large scale has become a major focus of attention and research as intermittent renewable energy has become more prevalent.

Electricity Transmission Systems

National and regional grid systems connecting generators with wholesale customers are just as important as electrical power generation. Investment in these is often on a similar scale to generation capacity.

Fast Neutron Reactors

Fast neutron reactors offer the prospect of vastly more efficient use of uranium resources and the ability to burn actinides which are otherwise the long-lived component of high-level nuclear waste. Some 400 reactor-years' experience has been gained in operating them.

International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation

The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC), developed from the former Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), is a partnership of countries aiming to ensure that new nuclear in initiatives meet the highest standards of safety, security and nonā€proliferation.


Lithium-7 has two important uses in nuclear power due to its relative transparency to neutrons. As hydroxide it is necessary in small quantities for safe operation in PWR cooling systems as a pH stabilizer, and as a fluoride it is also expected to come into much greater demand for molten salt reactors.

Molten Salt Reactors

Molten salt reactor use molten fluoride salts as primary coolant, at low pressure. Much of the interest today in reviving the MSR concept relates to using thorium (to breed fissile uranium-233).

Nuclear Fusion Power

Fusion power offers the prospect of an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, but it also presents so far unresolved engineering challenges.

Plans For New Reactors Worldwide

Nuclear power capacity worldwide is increasing steadily. Most reactors under construction are in the Asian region. Significant further capacity is being created by plant uprating.

The Nuclear Debate

Electricity demand is growing. The key question is how electricity should be produced now and in the years to come. Nuclear is currently the world's second largest source of low-carbon power, is quickly scalable, and provides numerous benefits to people and the planet.


Thorium is more abundant in nature than uranium. It is fertile rather than fissile, and can be used in conjunction with fissile material as nuclear fuel. The use of thorium as a new primary energy source has been a tantalizing prospect for many years.