WASHINGTON — Despite opposition, nuclear power generation almost doubled in the United States in the 1980s. Forty-six new nuclear units were added, bringing the total to 112. Nuclear energy is the nation's second largest source of electricity after coal, reports the US Council for Energy Awareness. Nuclear plants have saved 4 billion barrels of foreign oil since the 1973 oil embargo, at a savings of $115 billion (in 1988 dollars) in foreign oil payments.
Also, the council says, the 527 billion kilowatts of nuclear electricity produced in 1988 alone reduced utility emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 percent. The council maintains that today's nuclear energy plants are safer, more reliable, and more efficient than at the start of the decade. It notes that unplanned automatic shutdowns declined threefold and low-level solid radioactive waste declined 72 percent in volume.