How Do Nuclear Power Plants Affect the Environment in the United States?

Nuclear power plants have the potential to negatively affect the water, air and soil in the environment through the production of nuclear energy and from the mining of heavy metals, such as uranium. The transportation, mining and enrichment of uranium can have a negative affect on the environment by releasing fossil fuel emissions into the air.

Nuclear power plants depend on large natural water supplies, such as rivers and lakes, to produce steam that is used for cooling, which can have a negative impact on aquatic life. Water discharged from nuclear power plants may release small volumes of radioactive elements and tritium into the environment. Surface and ground water may also be affected by radioactive waste that is produced from uranium mining operations.