Map of USA

Map Loading...

Electricity generation in the USA

Nuclear power plants
  • The USA has 104 nuclear reactors providing almost 20% of its electricity.
  • There have been 17 licence applications to build 26 new nuclear reactors since mid 2007, following several regulatory initiatives preparing the way for new orders.
  • Extension of reactor lifetimes from 40 to 60 years is enhancing the economic competitiveness of plants, while both ownership and operation of these is becoming concentrated.
  • Both government and industry envisage significant new nuclear capacity by 2020.

(source: World Nuclear Association, 3 Feb 2009)

Military use: the beginings of nuclear power in the US

From the very first chain reaction on nuclear power was closely connected to military aims.
The bombs the US-army dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki shocked the whole world. Nevertheless, in the following years the US Atomic Energy Commission, did much to encourage the commercial use of nuclear reactors. "Atoms for Peace" was the headline for a promotion tour which in the end led to the spread of nuclear facilities all over the world ? but not only for civil purposes.

All nuclear power plants in the United States were ordered before 1975. Public opposition towards nuclear power, enhanced by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, has prevented the construction of new plants in the US.

"The future of the nuclear industry in the USA will depend on the credibility and commitment of the industry and its regulators to nuclear safety. That future could see many existing plants retired prematurely, or see many licenses extended, and even perhaps see new nuclear plants. To succeed in the future, however, nuclear power must contain something that has been absent from its past -- an effective regulator. The nuclear industry's worst enemy has always been the few corner-cutters that have focused public attention on unresolved safety problems. The past has shown that the key difference between safe and unsafe plants was plant owners' effectiveness meeting minimum safety standards. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is supposed to establish minimum standards and enforce them. The NRC has simply not done its job.", writes the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Developments in the nuclear sector

2010, Feb.: Official end for Yuka Mountain

"The withdrawal of its licence application yesterday marked the official end of the Yucca Mountain repository project.

Yucca Mountain - aerial
A file photo of Yucca Mountain, being
used here for the last time
The landmark means that efforts to make real the pledges of the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act resulted only in $10 billion of spending on a project now described as "not an option." The project came to an official halt yesterday when the Department of Energy (DoE) filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to withdraw the application to build and operate Yucca Mountain.

About one year ago President Barack Obama cut all funding for the DoE's work towards realising Yucca Mountain apart from answering questions from the NRC related to the license application"

(source: /

2009-06-17: Support for US nuclear universities

"The USA is to invest in a range of university nuclear programs in the latest round of spending. Almost $9 million will go to 29 universities and 86 scholars to support the "important zero-carbon energy source."

Speaking more strongly in favour of nuclear energy than usual, energy secretary Steven Chu linked the nuclear research he was supporting to energy independence and achieving climate change goals. The money is being awarded under the Nuclear Energy Universities Program and follows a $44 million announcement last month."
(source: /

2009-05-21: Dramatic cost increase of nuclear construction

The MIT recently published an update on its 2003 study on the future of nuclear power.

Since 2003 construction costs for all types of large-scale engineered projects have escalated dramatically. The estimated cost of constructing a nuclear power plant has increased at a rate of 15% per year.

The overnight capital cost of constructing a nuclear power plant is $4000 per kilowatt (kW), in 2007 dollars. This compares with a figure of $2000/kW, in 2002 dollars, given in the original 2003 study.

The updated study says that, applying the same cost of capital to nuclear as to coal and gas, nuclear came out at 6.6 c/kWh, coal at 8.3 cents and gas at 7.4 cents, assuming a carbon charge of $25 per tonne of CO2 on the latter.
(source: world nuclear news)

2009-05-08: DoE requests budget of 383 million US-dollar for nuclear research

"The prosperity and security of the United States hinge upon an historic effort to power the economy through clean and reliable energy sources," said the Department of Energy's (DoE's) introduction to its request for a FY2010 budget of $26.4 billion.

While not taking a leading role in the DoE's budget documentation, research into advanced nuclear power will recieve a significant part of energy source funding. If the DoE's request is approved and appropriated, $383 million would be allocated "to research and develop advanced nuclear technology and guel cycle technologies with improved safety and proliferation-resistance characteristics."

This would be split into two main programs: $192 for fuel cycle research and development which will "provide a sound basis for any future decision on the US nuclear fuel cycle" and $191 for Generation IV nuclear systems and solving the underlying technology challenges of the six reactor concepts under consideration.

2009-04-22: Energy Regulatory Chief Says New Coal, Nuclear Plants May Be Unnecessary

No new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said today.

"We may not need any, ever," Jon Wellinghoff told reporters at a U.S. Energy Association forum.

The FERC chairman's comments go beyond those of other Obama administration officials, who have strongly endorsed greater efficiency and renewables deployment but also say nuclear and fossil energies will continue playing a major role.

Wellinghoff's view also goes beyond the consensus outlook in the electric power industry about future sources of electricity. The industry has assumed that more baseload generation would provide part of an increasing demand for power, along with a rapid deployment of renewable generation, smart grid technologies and demand reduction strategies.

Jay Apt, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Electricity Industry Center, expressed skepticism about the feasibility of relying so heavily on renewable energy. "I don't think we're where Chairman Wellinghoff would like us to be," Apt said. "You need firm power to fill in when the wind doesn't blow. There is just no getting around that."

Some combination of more gas- or coal-fired generation, or nuclear power, will be needed, he said. "Demand response can provide a significant buffering of the power fluctuations coming from wind. Interacting widely scattered wind farms cannot provide smooth power."

Wellinghoff said renewables like wind, solar and biomass will provide enough energy to meet baseload capacity and future energy demands. Nuclear and coal plants are too expensive, he added.

"I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism," he said. "Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind's going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you'll dispatch that first."

He added, "People talk about, 'Oh, we need baseload.' It's like people saying we need more computing power, we need mainframes. We don't need mainframes, we have distributed computing."

The technology for renewable energies has come far enough to allow his vision to move forward, he said. For instance, there are systems now available for concentrated solar plants that can provide 15 hours of storage.

"What you have to do, is you have to be able to shape it," he added. "And if you can shape wind and you can effectively get capacity available for you for all your loads.

"So if you can shape your renewables, you don't need fossil fuel or nuclear plants to run all the time. And, in fact, most plants running all the time in your system are an impediment because they're very inflexible. You can't ramp up and ramp down a nuclear plant. And if you have instead the ability to ramp up and ramp down loads in ways that can shape the entire system, then the old concept of baseload becomes an anachronism."

'A lot that is still not understood'

Asked whether his ideas need detailed studies, given the complexity of the grid, Wellinghoff said the technology is already moving that way.

"I think it's being settled by the digital grid moving forward," he said. "We are going to have to go to a smart grid to get to this point I'm talking about. But if we don't go to that digital grid, we're not going to be able to move these renewables, anyway. So it's all going to be an integral part of operating that grid efficiently."

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. reported last week on challenges in integrating a twentyfold expansion of renewable power into the nation's electricity networks but did not specifically address whether additional baseload generation would be needed. A spokesperson for NERC did not have an immediate response to Wellinghoff's comments today.

(source: greenwire, published in New York Times homepage, announced by no-nukes)

2009, March 23: Record support for American nuclear
Support for nuclear energy in the USA is at the highest level ever found by the Gallup polling organisation.

In a survey telephone of 1012 adults this month, some 59% said they somewhat or strongly favoured the use of nuclear energy as a means of generating electricity. The figure is the highest ever found by Gallup, although it only edges out support levels in 1994, 2004 and 2007 by a few percent. The same question found opposition to nuclear at a joint record low of 37%. In all the Gallup polls since 1994, the proportion of people reporting no opinion on nuclear power was always 7% or under.


2009, March: Obama dumps Yucca mountain final repository

"President Obama’s proposed budget cuts off most money for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project, a decision that fulfills a campaign promise and wins the president political points in Nevada — but raises new questions about what to do with radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear power plants.

The decision could cost the federal government additional billions in payments to the utility industry, and if it holds up, it would mean that most of the $10.4 billion spent since 1983 to find a place to put nuclear waste was wasted.

A final decision to abandon the repository would leave the nation with no solution to a problem it has struggled with for half a century.

Lawyers are predicting tens of billions of dollars in damage suits from utilities that must pay to store their wastes instead of having the government bury them, with the figure rising by about a half-billion dollars for each year of additional delay.

The courts have already awarded the companies about $1 billion, because the government signed contracts obligating it to begin taking the waste in 1998, but seems unlikely to do so for years. The nuclear industry says it may demand the return of the $22 billion that it has paid to the Energy Department to establish a repository, but that the government has not yet spent.

The spent fuel that emerges from nuclear power plants has been accumulating for decades in steel-lined pools or giant steel-and-concrete casks near the reactors.

Yucca Mountain, a ridge of volcanic rock about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, has been the leading candidate site for a repository since the 1980s. But it was not selected by any scientific process of elimination; it was selected from a list in 1987 by Congress, which declared it dry and remote enough.

Scientific concerns have since emerged, including the realization that water flows through Yucca Mountain a lot faster than initially believed. That raises the prospect that the nuclear waste would leach over time, polluting the water table. The scientific merit of the site has not been established by independent judges.

Nevada has fought the project bitterly in court and in Congress. The ascension of Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, as Senate majority leader, and President Obama’s campaign promise to stop the Yucca Mountain depository and look for alternatives may finally settle the question.

In fact, the political wind is blowing so strongly against using Yucca Mountain that the nuclear industry’s trade association is not opposing Mr. Obama head-on. Instead, in response to his budget proposal, it called for creation of an independent panel to study how the government should meet its “legal and moral obligation” to take the waste. Mr. Obama himself is calling for more study."
(source: New York Times March 5, 2009)

2009, Feb: Entergy delays plans to build NPPs

The nuclear plant constructor Entergy has delayed its plant to build new NPPs. Due to increasing construction costs and the unwillingness of the possible contractor GE Hitsachi to take over risk for the project Entergy broke off negotiations. The price for the planned ESBWR had finally reached 10 billion dollars.

2009, Feb 13: Progress of 2 nuclear projects

Two US projects to build new nuclear power capacity have progressed recently. The Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSC) has unanimously approved South Carolina Electric & Gas Company's (SCE&G) plans to build two new Westinghouse AP1000s at its existing VC Summer site in the state.
After a three week public hearing, the PSC determined that the proposal to build the plant is "prudent and timely." It also allowed the company to recover some of the financing costs while the plant is under construction, rather than having to wait until it is in operation.
Also NRG Energy has received NRC's review schedule for its South Texas Project licence application, which means that it expects to receive the licence in 2012 and can now complete the detailed design and construction plans, from pouring first concrete to fuel loading and startup.
(source: World Nuclear News)

2009, Feb: New nuclear reactors must handle plane strike

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Tuesday that reactors at new nuclear power plants must be designed to withstand the crash of a commercial jetliner.

The commission’s action, after more than two years of deliberations, does not apply to the 104 reactors now operating.

The rule, approved by the commission in a 4-to-0 vote, requires that new reactors be designed so their containment structure would remain intact after a plane crash, cooling systems would continue to operate and spent fuel pools would be protected.

“This is a common-sense approach to address an issue raised by the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001,” the regulatory commission’s chairman, Dale E. Klein, said in a statement.
(source: New York Times Feb 17, 2009)

2008, June: 45 new NPPs necessary according to McCain

Senator John McCain said that he wanted 45 new nuclear reactors built in the United States by 2030, a course he called “as difficult as it is necessary.” In his third straight day of campaign speechmaking about energy and $4-a-gallon gasoline, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, told the crowd at a town-hall-style meeting at Missouri State University that he saw nuclear power as a clean, safe alternative to traditional sources of energy that emit greenhouse gases. He said his ultimate goal was 100 new nuclear plants.
(source: New York Times June 19, 2008)

June 2002

The U.S. Department of Energy signed an agreement with a publicly traded corporation, the United States Enrichment Corporation, that mandates the company to take delivery of highly enriched uranium derived from Russian nuclear weapons.
The uranium delivered to the U.S. comes from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons, reducing the inventory of highly enriched uranium in Russia under the Megatons to Megawatts program. The United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) purchases the nuclear fuel from Russia and sells it to customers to power their electric generating stations.
"Our strong cooperation with Russia will help ensure that the important goals of protecting the world from the proliferation of nuclear materials continues," said U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Last month, Abraham and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev worked out an agreement to accomplish non-proliferation work in Russia two years ahead of schedule.
Abraham said, "With this agreement America accomplishes two very important goals, ensuring our domestic capacity to produce fuel for our commercial nuclear reactors, and meeting important nuclear non-proliferation goals by accepting enriched uranium from Russia."
USEC, headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, is a supplier of enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants with revenues last year of more than $1.1 billion. USEC operates the only uranium enrichment facility in the United States - a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, Kentucky. USEC also operates sampling, transfer and shipping facilities near Portsmouth, Ohio.
The 1993 highly enriched uranium (HEU) Agreement calls for Russia to convert 500 tons of highly enriched uranium from dismantled nuclear weapons into reactor fuel for use in commercial nuclear reactors in the United States. Shipments began in 1995 and will continue through 2013.
To date more than 150 tons of HEU from the Russian nuclear weapons program has been converted to "peaceful" uses under this program.

July 2002

A consortium of European and American nuclear companies wants to establish a uranium enrichment plant for 1.1 billion dollar in the USA. Shortly an appropriate request is placed at the atomic supervisory authority NRC. The project would be the first of this kind in the United States for approximately 50 years and would break with its realisation the inland monopoly held by the enterprise Usec. In order to be able to operate nuclear power stations, the fissile uranium 235, occurring in rocks as ore, must be increased from 0,7 per cent to three per cent, which happens in such plants.
The consortium Louisiana Energy Services owns the British-Netherlands-German company Urenco, the world largest uranium supplier Cameco (Canada), the US power station and engineer companies Westinghouse and Fluor Daniel as well as the US power station operators Exelon, Entergy and Duke Energy. The German participation in Urenco is held over by the company Uranit of RWE and Eon. Possible locations for the plant are Lynchburg (Virginia), Wilmington (North Carolina) and Erwin (Tennessee). The start-up is planned in 2007.

1960: Opening of first commercial NPP

The first commercial power plant, was ordered in 1955 and built in 1959 by Commonwealth Edison in Morris, Illinois. The plant, known as Dresden Unit One was a 200 MW, Boiling Water opened in 1960. It was designed by General Electric and operated until 1979.

The next plants increased steadily in their power output ratings through the 1960's and 1970's, peaking in the 1100-1200 megawatt range in the 1980's. Unfortunately the early promises of inexpensive electrical power have not been proved out by the US experience. Plagued by cost overruns, bad press, extended outages and expensive repairs, nuclear power has proved to be much less economical than originally believed. The average nuclear plant in the early 1970's cost $170 million, the same size plant completed in 1983 cost $1.7 billion, and, by the late 1980's, $5 billion.

1957: 60 MW reactor

The AEC sponsored a pilot project with Duquesne Light Co. in Shippingport, Pennsylvania to build a 60 MW reactor, which opened in 1957. The plant was designed by Westinghouse and was a PWR originally developed for submarine propulsion. The plant operated until 1982.

1951: First experimental reactor

In 1951 the first experimental reactor in the USA produced enough power to light four light bulbs.
The Experimental Breeder Reactor or EBR I was constructed in Idaho by the Argonne National Laboratory. The Argonne Lab also designed the first reactor to provide an entire towns electric power. BORAX III began producing power for Arco, Idaho in 1955.

Sites With Nuclear Facilities

siteplantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
Arkansas Nuclear OneArkansas Nuclear One-1PWR 84019681974
Arkansas Nuclear One-2PWR 86019711978
ArnoldArnoldBWR 55019701974
BarnwellBarnwellLLW storage
Beatty - NevadaBeatty - NevadaLLW site
Beaver ValleyBeaver Valley-1PWR 80019701976
Beaver Valley-2PWR 83019741987
Big Rock PointBig Rock PointBWR 70196019631997
BonusBonusBWR 20196019641968
BraidwoodBraidwood-1PWR 110019751987
Braidwood-2PWR 110019751988
BrookhavenBrookhavenResearch Laboratory
Browns FerryBrowns Ferry-1BWR 110019671973
Browns Ferry-2BWR 110019671974
Browns Ferry-3BWR 110019681976
BrunswickBrunswick-1BWR 80019691976
Brunswick-2BWR 80019691975
ByronByron-1PWR 110019751985
Byron-2PWR 110019751987
CallawayCallawayPWR 120019751984
Calvert CliffsCalvert Cliffs-1PWR 85019681975
Calvert Cliffs-2PWR 85019681976
ClintonClinton-1BWR 95019751987
Comanche PeakComanche Peak-1PWR 120019741990
Comanche Peak-2PWR 120019741993
Connecticut YankeeConnecticut YankeePWR 580196219681996
CookCook-1PWR 100019691975
Cook-2PWR 110019691978
CooperCooperBWR 78019681974
Crystal RiverCrystal River-3PWR 840196719772013
CVTRCVTRPHWR 20196019631967
Davis BesseDavis Besse-1PWR 90019701977
Diablo CanyonDiablo Canyon-1PWR 110019681984
Diablo Canyon-2PWR 110019701985
DresdenDresden -2BWR 80019661970
Dresden -3BWR 80019661971
Dresden-1BWR 200195619601978
Elk RiverElk RiverBWR 20195919631968
FarleyFarley-1PWR 83019701977
Farley-2PWR 83019701981
FermiFermi-1FBR 70195619661972
Fermi-2BWR 110019691986
Fitz PatrickFitzPatrickBWR 82019681975
Fort St. VrainFort St.. VrainHTGR 330196819761989
Fort CalhounFort Calhoun-1PWR 48019681973
GinnaGinnaPWR 50019661969
Grand GulfGrand Gulf-1BWR 130019741984
Haddam NeckHaddam NeckPWR 560196419671996
HanfordHanfordPu processing, weapons factory
Hanford WNP-2BWR 110019721984
HatchHatch-1BWR 78019681974
Hatch-2BWR 80019721978
Hope CreekHope Creek-1BWR 110019761986
Humboldt BayHumboldt BayBWR 60196019631976
Huspeth CountyHuspeth CountyLLW repository
Indian PointIndian Point-1PWR 250195619621974
Indian Point-2PWR 87019661973
Indian Point-3PWR 100019681976
KewauneeKewauneePWR 540196819742013
La CrosseLa CrosseBWR 50196319681987
La SalleLa Salle-1BWR 110019731982
La Salle-2BWR 110019731984
LimerickLimerick-1BWR 110019701985
Limerick-2BWR 110019701989
LivermoreLLNLResearch Center
Maine YankeeMaine YankeePWR 820196819721997
McGuireMcGuire-1PWR 120019711981
McGuire-2PWR 120019711983
MescaleroMescaleroSpent Fuel Storage
Millstone PointMillstone Point-1BWR 660196619701998
Millstone Point-2PWR 87019691975
Millstone Point-3PWR 120019741986
MonticelloMonticelloBWR 54019671971
Nine Mile PointNine Mile Point-1BWR 61019651969
Nine Mile Point-2BWR 110019751987
North AnnaNorth Anna-1PWR 90019711978
North Anna-2PWR 90019701980
Oak RidgeOak RidgeResearch Center1940
OconeeOconee-1PWR 86019671973
Oconee-2PWR 86019671973
Oconee-3PWR 86019671974
Oyster CreekOyster CreekBWR 62019641969
PaducahPaducahEnrichment Facility19511952
PalisadesPalisadesPWR 78019671971
Palo VerdePalo Verde-1PWR 130019761985
Palo Verde-2PWR 130019761986
Palo Verde-3PWR 130019761987
PathfinderPathfinderBWR 60195919661967
Peach BottomPeach Bottom-1HTGR 50196219741974
Peach Bottom-2BWR 110019681974
Peach Bottom-3BWR 110019681974
PerryPerry-1BWR 120019741986
PiketonPiketonEnrichment Facility19542001
PilgrimPilgrimBWR 67019681972
PiquaPiquaResearch Rector19631966
Point BeachPoint Beach-1PWR 50019671970
Point Beach-2PWR 50019681972
Prairie IslandPrairie Island-1PWR 52019681973
Prairie Island-2PWR 52019691974
Quad CitiesQuad Cities-1BWR 80019671972
Quad Cities-2BWR 80019671972
Rancho SecoRancho Seco-1PWR 900196919741989
River BendRiver Bend-1BWR 93019771985
RobinsonRobinson-2PWR 66019671970
SalemSalem-1PWR 110019681976
Salem-2PWR 110019681981
San OnofreSan Onofre-1PWR 440196319681992
San Onofre-2PWR 1100197419822013
San Onofre-3PWR 1100197419832013
Savannah RiverSavannah RiverProcessing Center
SeabrookSeabrook-1PWR 120019761990
SequoyahSequoyah-1PWR 110019701980
Sequoyah-2PWR 110019701981
Shearon HarrisShearon HarrisPWR90019741987
ShippingportShippingportBreeder reactor19571982
Sierra BlancaSierra Blanca - TexasLLW repository
South TexasSouth Texas-1PWR 130019751988
South Texas-2PWR 130019751989
St. LucieSt.Lucie-1PWR 84019701976
St.Lucie-2PWR 84019761983
SusquehannaSusquehanna-1BWR 110019731982
Susquehanna-2BWR 110019681985
Three Mile IslandThree Mile Island-1PWR 80019681974
Three Mile Island-2PWR 900196919781979
Turkey PointTurkey Point-3PWR70019671972
Turkey Point-4PWR70019671973
Vermont YankeeVermont YankeeBWR 51019671972
Virgil C. SummerVirgil C. Summer-1PWR90019731982
Virgil C. Summer-2AP-10002013
VogtleVogtle-1PWR 110019761987
Vogtle-2PWR 110019761989
Ward ValleyWard Valley - CaliforniaLLW storage site
WaterfordWaterford-3PWR 120019741985
Watts BarWatts Bar-1PWR 120019721992
Watts Bar-2PWR 12001972
Wolf CreekWolf Creek-1PWR 120019771985
Yankee RoweYankee RowePWR 200195719601992
Yucca MountainYucca MountainHLW storage
ZionZion-1PWR 1100196819731998
Zion-2PWR 1100196819731998