This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 12, 2003

Nuclear Industry Sees Potential for Large Growth in 10 Years

The nuclear power industry has long been dormant in the United States, but industry advocates predict significant growth over the next decade. A combination of capacity upgrades, productivity gains, and the planned restart of the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama could increase nuclear generating capacity by 10,000 megawatts by 2012, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). U.S. nuclear plants set a new production record in 2002, thanks to being able to generate 91.5 percent of their potential generating capacity in 2002. This so-called "capacity factor" has been steadily increasing over the past five years. In all, the United States draws on 103 nuclear plants operating in 31 states. See the NEI press release.

While today's nuclear industry uses nuclear fission (the splitting of atoms) to produce power, DOE continues to develop nuclear fusion, which combines light atomic nuclei in a process much like the one that powers the sun. DOE announced in late January that it will join negotiations to build an international magnetic fusion research project. The proposed project will provide 500 megawatts of fusion power for 500 seconds or longer, being the first to maintain fusion in a plasma for long durations. Likely international participants include Canada, the European Union, Japan, the Russian Federation, and possibly China. See the DOE press release.