Only 50 years ago, nuclear energy was an exotic, futuristic technology-the subject of experiments and the stuff of science fiction.
How things have changed.
Today, we Americans get more electricity from nuclear energy than from any other source, except coal. In many states, nuclear energy is the leading source of electricity. And because all the "lower 48" states are interconnected by power lines, the vast majority of Americans get some electricity from nuclear power plants.
That means nuclear energy helps you enjoy the convenience of your microwave, the comfort of your electric blanket, and the fun of your CD player-even if there isn't a plant near your home.
Do we get any other benefits from nuclear power plants? You bet.
They provide an alternative to burning vast amounts of fossil fuels-making electricity production much easier on the environment.
They produce much of the electricity that fuels our economic growth. They power new industrial technologies that keep our economy growing and improve our global competitiveness.
They cut America's demand for imported oil by nearly 100 million barrels a year-reducing our dependence on foreign oil suppliers and cutting our trade deficit.
The future looks even better. Advanced-design nuclear power plants are now being developed-quicker and less costly to build, better performing, and even safer than today's plants. These plants will supply our children's and grandchildren's electricity-while helping to protect their environment.
Cheers For Energy Efficiency We Americans should be proud of ourselves. Since the 1973 oil embargo, we've learned to use energy far more efficiently.
Since 1973, our population has soared from 211 million to more than 258 million, and our economy has grown about 50 percent. Yet our use of energy has grown only 10 percent. That's a major accomplishment.
What's behind this efficiency? For one thing, nuclear electricity.
Since 1973, America's electricity use has increased by 60 percent-slightly more than our Gross Domestic Product. Yet during the same period, the use of non-electric forms of energy fell by 3 percent.
Clearly, electricity has become America's fuel of choice. It's helped us use energy more efficiently-while helping our economy to grow.
Where did this new electric supply come from? Over 95 percent of our new electric supply since 1973 came from nuclear energy and coal. More than 80 new nuclear power plants have started operating since 1973.
Nuclear Energy: Clean And Green Pollution, soot and urban smog are bad news for the environment. The good news is nuclear energy.
Nuclear power plants produce electricity by splitting uranium atoms. No fuels are burned-and no pollutants are released into the environment.
By using clean nuclear energy instead of other fuels, electric utilities reduced U.S. emissions of CO2 (the principal "greenhouse" gas) by 147 million metric tons a year.
That makes us all breathe a lot easier.
Other nations have also discovered the environmental benefits of nuclear energy. France, for example-concerned about imported oil-more than tripled its nuclear energy production during the 1980s. During that same period, total pollution from the French electric power system dropped by 80-90 percent.
More Imported Oil? No Thanks! Next time you fill up your gas tank, here's a fact to think about: We Americans now import almost 50 percent of the oil we use-at a cost of nearly $1 billion per week! But there's good news, too: Without nuclear energy, our foreign oil habit would be even worse.
Why? At the time of the 1973 oil embargo, about 17 percent of U.S. electricity was made by burning oil, and about 5 percent from nuclear energy. But in 1993, oil represented only about 3 percent of U.S. electricity, while nuclear energy supplied almost 20 percent. Clearly, utilities today are burning a lot less oil-thanks partly to nuclear power plants.
Since 1973, nuclear energy has substituted for 2.3 billion barrels of oil-much of it imported-and reduced our trade deficit by billions of dollars.
Someday, our cars may run on electricity or other alternate fuels-not gasoline. Until then, America probably will continue to import oil. But nuclear power plants are helping keep those imports as low as possible.
Worldly Wisdom Besides the United States and France, other nations have gotten smart about the benefits of nuclear energy.
More than 400 nuclear plants operate in 30 countries around the world-including more than 100 in the United States. They supply about 17 percent of the world's electricity. In many countries, nuclear energy plays an even larger role than in the United States.
As their populations grow and economies expand, many of these nations are building new nuclear plants. Seventy-two new plants are under construction around the world.
The 21st Century: It's Almost Here What will America face in the coming decades? A growing population...an expanding economy... greater reliance on computers and other electric technologies...too much dependence on imported oil... uncertainties about the long-range supply and price of natural gas...and major questions about the long-term environmental effects of burning fossil fuels.
All these things point to one conclusion: America will need more electricity-including nuclear energy.
For three decades, we Americans have been able to count on nuclear energy-for reliable electricity supply, a clean environment and a growing economy.
Our children-and their children-deserve nothing less.