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OK, the second one is pretty easy.

But did you know nuclear does more than just produce massive amounts of clean energy?

It’s used in a variety of applications, ranging from cancer treatments to fighting crime thanks to a little thing we call radioisotopes.

These are simply atoms that emit radiation and since their discovery more than a century ago, they have transformed the medical industry and other fields to help benefit society.

Here are 5 ways nuclear powers our lives.

Infographic listing different applications of nuclear: space, energy, medical and diagnostics, criminal investigation, agriculture.
Sarah Harman | U.S. Department of Energy

1. Space Exploration

A great deal of what we know about deep space has been made possible by radioisotope power systems (RPSs). These small nuclear power sources are used to power spaceships in the extreme environments of deep space.

RPSs are proven to be safe, reliable, and maintenance-free for decades of space exploration, including missions to study Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Pluto.

2. Nuclear Energy

Nuclear provides nearly 20% of our electricity in the United States. It’s also the nation’s largest source of clean energy—making up nearly 60% of our emissions-free electricity. That’s more than all of the renewables combined.

The nation’s fleet of reactors also operates more than 92% of the time, making it the most reliable energy source on the grid by far—and it’s not even close.

3. Medical Diagnosis and Treatment

Approximately one-third of all patients admitted to U.S. hospitals are diagnosed or treated using radiation or radioactive materials.

Nuclear medical imaging, which combines the safe administration of radioisotopes with camera imaging, helps physicians locate tumors, size anomalies, or other problems.

Doctors also use radioisotopes therapeutically to kill cancerous tissue, reduce the size of tumors, and alleviate pain.  

4. Criminal Investigation

Criminal investigators frequently rely on radioisotopes to obtain physical evidence linking a suspect to a specific crime. They can be used to identify trace chemicals in materials such as paint, glass, tape, gunpowder, lead, and poisons.

5. Agriculture

Finally, farmers can use radioisotopes to control insects that destroy crops as an alternative to chemical pesticides. In this procedure, male insect pests are rendered infertile. Pest populations are then drastically reduced and, in some cases, eliminated.

Nuclear energy is also harnessed to preserve our food.

When food is irradiated, harmful organisms are destroyed without cooking or altering the nutritional properties of the food. It also makes chemical additives and refrigeration unnecessary, and requires less energy than other food preservation methods.

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