How much nuclear power the U.S. generates might surprise you
Miles down the road
The most serious accident in a U.S. power plant occurred 40 years ago, and even though the small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects, the emergency helped heighten awareness and oversight.
A combination of equipment malfunctions, design-related problems and worker errors led to the Three Mile Island reactor’s partial meltdown on March 28, 1979. The event brought about changes involving emergency response planning and radiation protection and significantly enhanced U.S. reactor safety. The accident put the hold on nuclear power expansion for about 20 years.
The first commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. came online in 1957. More than 30 reactors have been retired.
The Trump administration has approved seven applications for U.S. companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, the Energy Department said Thursday.
U.S. nuclear power in 2019
According to the world Nuclear Association, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, accounting for more than 30 percent of worldwide nuclear generation of electricity.
In 2018, U.S. reactors produced about 19.3 percent of total electrical output.
It has been 30 years since new reactors were built, but two new units are expected to come online in 2019 and 2020 in Georgia.
The U.S. has 98 operating nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 power companies. The average U.S. nuclear power plant is about 38 years old.
California nuclear power
After the shutdown of the San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station in 2013, the state has one nuclear power station, Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo. The Diablo Canyon reactors are expected to close by 2025.
Highest generation ever
Despite closures, U.S. nuclear electricity generation in 2018 surpassed its previous peak. The increase in spite of several reactor closers is said to be due to shorter refueling and maintenance cycles. Output is expected to decline as much as 17 percent by 2025.
There are 59 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 98 nuclear reactors in 30 U.S. states.
Reactors around the world
U.S. commercial nuclear power production and nuclear weapons production have resulted in growing inventories of spent nuclear fuel and other high-level nuclear waste. Most radioactive waste is currently stored where it is made at 80 sites in 35 states.
No U.S. repository has been developed for the permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste. A national repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain Nevada has been debated since the 1980s but never completed.The plan for the decommissioned nuclear plant in San Onofre is to place all of the estimated 3.55 million pounds of spent fuel in what is called dry cask storage.
Commercial spent nuclear fuel in storage
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Department of Energy, U.S. government Accountability Office, Nuclear Energy Institute