Since nuclear energy does not depend on fossil fuels, it offers benefits including reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fluctuating oil or gas prices. As of 2014, the worldwide fleet of nuclear reactors reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 2 billion metric tons each year.
Greenhouse gases are a contributing factor to global warming. The primary reason for the increase in these gases is the increasing dependence on fossil fuels. Coal- and gas-fired plants also create other forms of pollution that affect human health. Switching to nuclear energy could further reduce pollution and help the United States reach its goal of lowering such emissions.
A properly operating nuclear generator releases less radioactivity into the atmosphere than similarly sized coal-generating plant, according to How Stuff Works. However, each reactor generates 20 metric tons of high-class nuclear waste each year. The waste produces heat and radiation that eventually corrodes through any container in which it is sealed. While nuclear decay eventually renders the waste as harmless, the process takes thousands of years.
While China has plans to bring more nuclear generators on-line, the use of nuclear energy is decreasing in many other locations. After the multiple meltdowns of a reactor due to an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, Japan is turning away from nuclear energy. Public opinion in the United States and many other countries makes approval of new reactors difficult.