Other Uses of Nuclear Technology

There are a number of other beneficial uses for nuclear technology in addition to creating electricity. These range from agriculture to medical, and space exploration to water desalination.

Agriculture and Food

In many parts of the world, agricultural workers use radiation to prevent harmful insects from reproducing. When insects cannot have offspring, there are fewer of them. Reducing the numbers of pests and bugs protects crops, providing the world with more food.

Irradiation also kills bacteria and other harmful organisms in food. This type of sterilization occurs without making food radioactive or significantly affecting the nutritional value. In fact, irradiation is the only way to kill bacteria in raw and frozen foods effectively.


Nuclear technologies provide images inside the human body and can help to treat disease. For example, nuclear research has allowed doctors to predict precisely the amount of radiation required to kill cancer tumors without damaging healthy cells.

Hospitals sterilize medical equipment with gamma rays safely and inexpensively. Items sterilized by radiation include syringes, burn dressings, surgical gloves and heart valves.

Space Exploration

Nuclear technology makes deep space exploration possible. The generators in unmanned spacecraft use the heat from plutonium to generate electricity and can operate unattended for years. This reliable, long-term source of electricity powers these spacecraft, even as they venture deep into space.

The Nuclear Energy Institute notes that Voyager 1, which was launched in 1977 to study the outer solar system, is still transmitting data today.

Water Desalination

The World Nuclear Association notes that one-fifth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water and that number is expected to grow. Nuclear technology can play an important role in overcoming this challenge.

Water desalination is the process of removing salt from saltwater to make the water drinkable. However, this process requires a lot of energy. Nuclear energy facilities can provide the large amount of energy that desalination plants need to provide fresh drinking water.

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