We investigate breakdown of carbon nanotube (CNT) interconnects induced by Joule heating in air and under high vacuum conditions (10(-5) mbar). A CNT with a diameter of 18 nm, which is grown by chemical vapor deposition to connect opposing titanium nitride (TiN) electrodes, is able to carry an electrical power up to 0.6 mW before breaking down under vacuum, with a corresponding maximum current density up to 8 × 10(7) A cm(-2) (compared to 0.16 mW and 2 × 10(7) A cm(-2) in air). Decoration with electrochemically deposited Ni particles allows protection of the CNT interconnect against oxidation and improvement of the heat release through the surrounding environment. A CNT decorated with Ni particles is able to carry an increased electrical power of about 1.5 mW before breaking down under vacuum, with a corresponding maximum current density as high as 1.2 × 10(8) A cm(-2). The Joule heating produced along the current carrying CNT interconnect is able to melt the Ni particles and promotes the formation of titanium carbon nitride which improves the electrical contact between the CNT and the TiN electrodes.