Nuclear waste heat use in agriculture: History and opportunities in the United States

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Nuclear power plants (NPPs) produce a large amount of waste heat (WH) that has generally been perceived and regulated as an environmental liability. Given the abundance of WH from NPPs and the ubiquity of generally low-grade heat requirements of agricultural operations, from production to post-harvest, there is remarkable potential to harness NPP WH for agricultural uses with mutual economic advantages to NPPs and agricultural sectors. Taking advantage of this WH resource may improve the financial outlook of both the partnered power plants and agricultural businesses by providing an additional revenue stream, decreased heating costs, and a reduced carbon footprint. This review summarizes and interprets the historical discourse and research on agricultural applications of NPP WH in the U.S., and synthesizes technical constraints, unknowns, and opportunities for realizing the benefits of WH derived from the nuclear energy sector for agricultural value chains. Previous applications of WH in the agricultural industry demonstrate that this is a viable option to the benefit of the parties involved under the right conditions, but relatively little has been done to further this technology in the U.S. in recent years or explore novel applications. A revival of interest in this technology may be warranted given the current outlook for NPPs in the U.S. and a general interest in reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121918
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - Sep 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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