The commercial use of nuclear energy to generate electricity began in the 1950s and currently accounts for about 14% of the world’s electricity production. More than 400 nuclear reactors operate around the world in 30 countries, and several more countries are pursuing nuclear power.
Nuclear power plants are reliable generation sources, often operating for 18-24 months without shutting down. Further, because the energy is derived from the fission of a nucleus and not from chemical combustion, emissions are minimal. Key challenges include the high capital costs of nuclear power, the management of radioactive waste, and the aging of plant components and materials. Research and technology can help address these challenges, informing the operation of existing nuclear plants and the design and deployment of advanced nuclear plants