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nuclear power plantNuclear power was once touted as a hi-tech solution for the future when it was first introduced in a post-war world as THE answer to all the world's energy needs.

Since then, very real disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and most recently a nuclear meltdown in Japan have taken its toll on nuclear power's reputation as a safe energy alternative.

Nuclear energy today

Today, more than 400 nuclear power plants produce 16 percent of the world's electricity.

Despite the controversy over health and safety concerns (with particular focus on radioactive waste management), development of nuclear reactor technology has continued unabated over the last several decades. In fact, the technology has reached the point where many developing countries are implementing it on a massive scale.

Pakistan, India, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States are all developing various kinds of reactors to supplement ever-growing power needs.

Meanwhile, China outdistances every other nation in its fevered development. As China's power demands skyrocket, more than 100 nuclear power plants are planned in the coming decades (compared to only 30 nuclear power plants currently on the drawing board in the US.)

The future of nuclear - pros and cons

Is it likely that nuclear power will ever become a dominant form of alternative energy worldwide? Experts say it's not likely, due mainly to the difficulty of manufacturing the critical parts of a nuclear reactor, with only a few factories in the entire world capable doing so.

Ultimately, nuclear power may play a significant role in addressing the world's power needs, but as a supplement form of energy only. In addition to the cost and difficulty of developing nuclear plants, the related safety and radioactive waste management concerns are probably too numerous for it to ever gain significant dominance.

More information on nuclear power around the Web:

Is Nuclear Power Viable? Archive TIME magazine report on the state of nuclear power development and its future prospects.

Nuclear Reaction - Archived PBS Frontline episode with a broad overview of what has caused public fears in America arising from nuclear disasters with excerpts from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl reports, instructional videos, FAQ, related Web resources.

Nuclear power - An extensive overview from Wikipedia explaining nuclear power's early origins and development, controversies and debate on atomic waste management, and the future of the industry with photos, related references and resources.

Nuclear Matters - Special interest group promoting the use of nuclear power features related news, opinion, video reports, and kid-friendly resources including Top Ten facts and an animated look at the inner workings of a nuclear power plant.

Greenpeace International - End the nuclear age - Discussions on the dangers of nuclear power with focus on radioactive waste management, its contribution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, and warnings of possible Chernobyl-scale accidents in the future, including recent news, video reports.

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