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nuclear industry

Nuclear power is any nuclear technology designed to extract usable energy from atomic nuclei via controlled nuclear reactions. The only method in use today is through nuclear fission, though other methods might one day include nuclear fusion and radioactive decay. All utility-scale reactors heat water to produce steam, which is then converted into mechanical work for the purpose of generating electricity or propulsion. In 2007, 14% of the world's electricity came from nuclear power. More than 150 nuclear-powered naval vessels have been built, and a few radioisotope rockets have been produced.

As of 2005, nuclear power provided 2.1% of the world's energy and 15% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for 56.5% of nuclear generated electricity. As of 2007, the IAEA reported there are 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries.

In 2007, nuclear power's share of global electricity generation dropped to 14%. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the main reason for this was an earthquake in western Japan on 16 July 2007, which shut down all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. There were also several other reductions and "unusual outages" experienced in Korea and Germany. Also, increases in the load factor for the current fleet of reactors appear to have plateaued.

International research is continuing into safety improvements such as passively safe plants, the use of nuclear fusion, and additional uses of process heat such as hydrogen production (in support of a hydrogen economy), for desalinating sea water, and for use in district heating systems.