Generation IV nuclear power plants (GEN IV NPPs) are supposed to become, in many countries, an important source of base load power in the middle-long term (2030-2050). Nowadays there are many designs of these NPPs but for political, strategic and economic reasons only few of them will be deployed. International literature proposes many papers and reports dealing with GEN IV NPPs, but there is an evident difference in the types and structures of the information and a general unbiased overview is missing. This paper fills the gap, presenting the state-of-the-art for GEN IV NPPs technologies (VHTR, SFR, SCWR, GFR, LFR and MSR) providing a comprehensive literature review of the different designs, discussing the major R&D challenges and comparing them with other advanced technologies available for the middle- and long-term energy market. The result of this research shows that the possible applications for GEN IV technologies are wider than current NPPs. The economics of some GEN IV NPPs is similar to actual NPPs but the "carbon cost" for fossil-fired power plants would increase the relative valuation. However, GEN IV NPPs still require substantial R&D effort, preventing short-term commercial adoption. Â© 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.