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

August 06, 2003

Will Nuclear Power Help Cut U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions?

As analysts examine ways to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, two facts are obvious: carbon dioxide dominates greenhouse gas emissions, and most of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions come from the use of fossil fuels for energy. Although increased energy efficiency and a greater use of renewable energy are two approaches to reducing U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is proposing that the United States also use nuclear power to meet that goal. The new MIT report, "The Future of Nuclear Power," points to four barriers to increased use of nuclear power: high relative costs; perceived adverse safety, environmental, and health effects; potential security risks from nuclear proliferation; and unresolved challenges in the long-term management of nuclear wastes. It also offers recommendations to address those barriers. See the MIT report.

One topic addressed by the MIT report is new nuclear reactor designs, which could help reduce concerns about safety and health. DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently summarized the status of new nuclear reactor designs in the United States. Although all commercial nuclear plants in the United States fall into two categories—either pressurized water reactors or boiling water reactors—the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified several improved versions of these current designs, and a number of alternative designs are undergoing the preliminary step of being "pre-certified." Many of these designs are simpler and feature passive safety features intended to decrease the likelihood of nuclear accidents. See the EIA report.