Nuclear Energy Myths & Facts

MYTH: Radiation is man-made
Radiation is the term used for energy in motion. There are many natural sources of radiation that we live with safely every day. Cosmic radiation from the sun, for example.  Uranium – one of many naturally radioactive elements – comes from rocks.

The radiation from the nuclear energy industry contributes to less than 1 percent of the radiation we receive from other sources.

FACT: Nuclear energy is rapidly expanding on a global scale

  • 29 countries use safe, clean nuclear energy to generate electricity
  • 441 nuclear energy plants generate 14% of the world’s electricity
  • 16 countries rely on nuclear energy for at least a quarter of their total electricity, including:
    • France 78%
    • South Korea 39%
    • Japan 30%
    • USA 20%
  • 61 new plants are under construction in 15 countries
  • The IAEA expects at least 70 new plants worldwide by 2030

MYTH: nuclear reactors can explode like bombs
It is not possible for a nuclear energy plant to explode like a bomb. The enrichment level of the uranium is too low. These plants are designed to produce electricity safely and reliably.

Nuclear energy plants are among the safest and most secure industrial facilities in the world.  Robust safety systems - where multiple layers of physical and electronic security support each other – severely limit access to the reactor core.

An explosion from outside the plant – from a plane crash, for example – would likely not penetrate the reactor core and cannot cause the nuclear fuel to explode.

FACT: Nuclear power plants produce little waste
Compared to other power industries nuclear energy is very clean.  A typical commercial reactor produces about 400 cubic metres of waste a year.  A similar sized coal plant produces 400-thousand cubic meters of ash a year, and seven million tonnes of dangerous exhaust gases.

FACT: Nuclear plants are efficient
Nuclear reactors produce huge volumes of electricity from a very small amount of fuel.

One uranium pellet produces the same amount of energy as 474 litres of oil or one ton of coal.  That’s enough electricity to power one household for up to four months without producing any carbon emissions.

MYTH: It’s not safe to live near or work in a nuclear power plant
Reactors are designed and built to contain radiation.  They are a safe workplace for hundreds of staff.

If you stood at the site boundary for a whole year, you would receive less than:

  • a quarter of the radiation you would receive from a chest x-ray
  • a third of the radiation you would receive on a flight from Paris to New York

A naturally occurring, mildly radioactive element. Uranium-235 is an isotope found as approximately 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Uranium-235 can undergo fission, making it an ideal fuel for nuclear reactors.
Nuclear energy

The energy that is released during a nuclear reaction. Splitting atoms (fission) and fusing atoms (fusion) both release nuclear energy. Today's nuclear power plants use fission to produce energy, which allow them to generate electricity on a large scale.
Nuclear reactor

The part of a nuclear power plant where nuclear fission occurs, producing heat.

Matter that contains only one type of atom, such as oxygen. There are 94 naturally occurring elements, including uranium.
Nuclear fuel

Fissionable nuclear material in the form of fabricated rods and assemblies. The fuel rods and assemblies are loaded into the reactor core of a civil nuclear power plant.
Carbon emissions

The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a gas linked to ozone damage and climate change. Sources of carbon emissions include people, cars and fossil fuel power plants.
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