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How Many US Nuclear Power Plants

Nuclear power has been a source of energy for decades, but its use has become increasingly controversial in recent years. With the potential to generate large amounts of energy with few emissions, nuclear power has a lot of advantages over fossil fuels. However, it also presents a number of challenges, namely the risks of nuclear accidents and the disposal of nuclear waste. How many US nuclear power plants are there? Let's explore the surprising truth about how many nuclear power plants exist today

Despite the controversy surrounding nuclear power, the United States has more nuclear reactors than any other country.

Keep reading and find out what this means for your state. Link to full video here. Link to nuclear videos and radiation.

What Is Nuclear Energy

Simply put, nuclear energy comes from the nucleus (or central core) of an atom. All nuclear power plants used nuclear fission (the splitting of the atom’s central core) to create energy. For nuclear power plants, energy is generated from the fission (splitting) of an isotope of uranium. This nuclear reaction releases heat and energy. This heat is then used to create steam, the steam turns turbines, and the turbines produce electricity.

History of US Nuclear Power

Commercial nuclear power plants were first used to generate electricity in 1958. However, most nuclear power plants were constructed after 1970. In 1979 public trust in nuclear energy plummeted after a nuclear accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. In the following ten years, 67 nuclear reactor construction projects were canceled.

Despite this change in public opinion, nuclear electricity generation capacity peaked in 2012 with 104 operating nuclear reactors. Since then, annual nuclear generation capacity increased each year, even though the number of operating reactors declined. This is due to an increase in licensing capacity (uprates), as well as high-capacity utilization rates (or capacity factors).

By the beginning of 2023, the United States had 92 operating commercial nuclear reactors at 53 nuclear power plants in 28 states. The average age of these nuclear reactors is about 40 years old. The oldest operating reactor, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in New York, began commercial operation in December 1969. The newest reactor to enter service, Vogtle Unit 3 in Georgia, reached initial criticality in March 2023.

The United States has the most nuclear power reactors of any country in the world, as well as the largest nuclear electricity generation capacity.

Simply put, The US generates more nuclear electricity than any other country. These reactors operate at full power 92% of the time and generate nearly 20% of the country’s energy every year.

How Many US Nuclear Power Plants Are There

While the number of states with nuclear plants is increasing, the actual number of plants in operation is much lower than in the 1970s. There are currently a total of 53 nuclear power plants, with a total of 92 nuclear reactors.

The majority of these are in the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Nuclear Power Plant US Map, nuclear reactors in the US
States with nuclear reactions. Number indicates how many reactors.

Nuclear Plants US - BY STATE

The map below shows the states with nuclear power, including the number of plants in each state. The 12 states with the most nuclear power plants:

1. Illinois - 11

2. Pennsylvania - 9

3. South Carolina - 7

4. Alabama - 5

5. North Carolina - 5

6. Florida - 4

7. Georgia - 4

8. Michigan - 4

9. New York – 4

10. Tennessee – 4

11. Texas – 4

12. Virginia – 4

List of How many US nuclear power plants exist
List of how many US nuclear power plants exist.

States with Highest Electricity from Nuclear Power

New Hampshire produces the highest share of its electricity from nuclear power at 61%, followed by South Carolina with 56% and Illinois with 54%. The top 12-producing states of nuclear power (reference):

1. New Hampshire (61%)

2. South Carolina (56%)

3. Illinois (54%)

4. Tennessee (44%)

5. Connecticut (42%)

6. Maryland (38%)

7. New Jersey (37%)

8. Pennsylvania (36%)

9. New York (34%)

10. Alabama (31%)

11. North Carolina (31%)

12. Virginia (30%)

nuclear reactors in the united states and percentage of state electricity derived from nuclear
Percentage of state electricity derived from nuclear power.

Next Generation Reactors – Vogtle Unit 3 and 4

The first generation of nuclear reactors was developed in the 1950s and were shut down by 2015. Generation II reactors are the ones mostly in operation today. While they were designed to last only 40 years, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency had granted license renewals to 89 reactors for an additional 20 years. Over 100 new advanced reactors, Generation III and III+, are being planned around the world. Many of the next generation nuclear reactor designs are in advanced planning stages, under construction, or being researched in North America, Europe, Japan, Russia and China. These designs incorporate improvements in safety and cost, as well as in reliability, proliferation resistance and waste reduction.

The youngest reactors in the US are Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia. Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are the first U.S. deployment of the AP1000 Generation III+ reactor. The AP1000 was designed as the next-generation nuclear reactor that could provide a standardized design for the U.S. utilities market.

Check out our video on advanced nuclear technologies for more detail on generation III+ nuclear reactors design and technology, including Vogtle Units 3 and 4. Two technologies we detail are part of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, futuristic nuclear technology funded for over $4 billion.

Conclusion: A Global Perspective on Nuclear Power

The challenges associated with nuclear power remain numerous and varied, but with the right regulations and safety measures in place, nuclear power has the potential to be a safe and reliable source of energy. It is encouraging to see that more states are recognizing the potential of nuclear power and taking steps to develop it. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for advanced nuclear power in the US.

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