What is the status of the U.S. nuclear industry?

Did you know?

On December 2, 1942, under the bleachers of the football stadium at the University of Chicago, Dr. Enrico Fermi initiated the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. The experiment, conducted as part of the wartime atomic bomb program, also led to peaceful uses of the atom, including construction of the first U.S. nuclear power plant at Shippingport, Pennsylvania, in 1957.

As of May 2017, there were 99 operating commercial nuclear reactors at 61 nuclear power plants in the United States. The average age of U.S. nuclear reactors is about 36 years old. The oldest operating reactors, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 and Oyster Creek, began commercial operation in December 1969. Four reactors were permanently shut down in 2013, and one reactor was taken out of service in 2014. The newest reactor to enter service, Watts Bar Unit 2, came online in 2016.

Since 1990, the share of total annual U.S. electricity generation provided by nuclear power has averaged about 20%. Nuclear generation has generally increased through power plant modifications to increase capacity (known as uprates) and by shortening the length of time reactors are offline for refueling.

Annual nuclear generation in the United States has remained relatively steady in recent years.

Line graph showing: nuclear generation from 1980 to 2016 Source: Energy Information Administration

Did you know?

The Grand Coulee Dam in Washington has the most electricity generation capacity of any electric power plant in the United States, at 7,079 megawatts (MW) net summer capacity. The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona ranks second in the nation with a capacity of 3,937 MW. Nuclear plants use more of their capacity on an annual basis than hydropower facilities. In 2016, Grand Coulee generated about 19 million megawatthours of electricity, while Palo Verde generated about 32 million megawatthours.