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Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

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Mapped: Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

This was originally posted on June 8, 2022, on Elements.

The United States is the world’s largest producer of nuclear power, representing more than 30% of the world’s nuclear power generation.

America has 92 reactors in operation, providing about 20% of the country’s electricity.

The above infographic uses data from the International Atomic Energy Agency to showcase every single nuclear reactor in America.

Nuclear Development

Nuclear power in the U.S. dates back to the 1950s.

George Westinghouse produced the first commercial pressurized water reactor in 1957 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. The technology is used in approximately half of the 450 nuclear power reactors worldwide.

Today, over 30 different power companies across 30 states operate nuclear facilities in the U.S., and most nuclear power reactors are located east of the Mississippi River.

Illinois has more reactors than any state, with 11 reactors and the largest total nuclear electricity generation capacity at about 11,582 megawatts (MW). Meanwhile, the largest reactor is at the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, Mississippi, with a capacity of about 1,500 MW.

Most American reactors in operation were built between 1967 and 1990. Until 2013 there had been no new constructions started since 1977, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Nuclear power reactors in America receive 40-year operating licenses from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), with companies able to apply for 20-year extensions. The oldest operating reactor, Nine Mile Point Unit 1 in New York, began commercial operation in December 1969. The newest reactor to enter service, Watts Bar Unit 2, came online in 2016.

The Future of Nuclear Power in the U.S.

U.S. nuclear power’s capacity peaked in 2012 at about 102,000 MW, with 104 operating nuclear reactors operating.

US nuclear generation and capacity

Since nuclear plants generate nearly 20% of U.S. electricity and about half of the country’s carbon‐free electricity, the recent push from the Biden administration to reduce fossil fuels and increase clean energy will require significant new nuclear capacity.

Today, there are two new reactors under construction (Vogtle 3 and 4) in Georgia, expected to come online before 2023.

Furthermore, some of the Inflation Reduction Act provisions include incentives for the nuclear industry. Starting in 2024, for example, utilities will be able to get a credit of $15 per megawatt-hour for electricity produced by existing nuclear plants. Nuclear infrastructure projects could also be eligible for up to $250 billion worth of loans to update, repurpose, and revitalize energy infrastructure that has stopped working.

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Clean Energy

3 Learnings for Scaling Up Wind and Solar Power

Streamlining processes, investing in infrastructure, and promoting local manufacturing can pave the way for wind and solar adoption.

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An infographic showing how streamlining processes, investing in infrastructure, and promoting local manufacturing can pave the way for wind and solar adoption

3 Learnings for Wind and Solar Power Scale-Up

To keep the increase in global temperatures to 1.5°C, the International Energy Agency (IEA) states that the world must triple its renewable power capacity by 2030.

However, swift and widespread adoption depends on the removal of various bottlenecks in project pipelines worldwide.

We’ve partnered with the National Public Utilities Council to visualize data from the IEA and the Energy Transitions Commission to highlight three areas of improvement, critical to the rapid adoption of renewables.

1. Planning and Permitting

Currently, regulatory and administrative barriers lead to lengthy project timelines worldwide.

A wind project, for example, can take 10–12 years of development, while solar projects can take four years.

The Energy Transitions Commission suggests a faster process, including quicker site mapping, permit applications, and environmental surveys.

Policymakers can help reduce project timelines by allocating land for renewables, setting permit targets, and digitalizing the permit application process. As a result, the development time for wind projects could be reduced to 4.5–5.5 years, and solar projects could be online in one year.

2. Grid Availability for Solar and Wind 

Connecting renewable energy projects to the grid has posed a challenge.

As of 2023, almost 1,500 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar projects in advanced stages of development were still off the electricity grid. 

Excluding China and India, transmission and distribution investments have increased by only 1% annually since 2010. According to the IEA, however, government and stakeholder investment in grids must double to over $600 billion annually to meet climate targets.

3. Supply Chain Diversification

The final area for improvement, when it comes to expediting global wind and solar power scale-up, is supply chain diversification.

Currently, China heavily concentrates the global manufacturing capacity on clean energy, leading to a heavy dependency on imports for the rest of the world.

Share of Manufacturing Capacity, 2021Wind (Onshore)Wind (Offshore)Solar PV
China59%70%85%
Europe16%26%2%
North America10%0%1%
Asia Pacific9%4%11%
Central & South America5%0%0%
Africa0%0%0%
Eurasia0%0%0%
Middle East0%0%0%

Global manufacturing capacity share is calculated by averaging the global manufacturing shares of individual components (i.e., wind: tower, nacelle, blade; solar: wafers, cells, modules). Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

According to research by ONYX Insight, almost 60% of wind farm operators reported that supply chain issues were their biggest challenge over the next 2–3 years.

International collaboration and investment, however, can help diversify manufacturing outside of China. In addition, policymakers can also implement policies and incentives that encourage the growth of local manufacturing capacity for renewables. 

All in all, streamlining processes, investing in infrastructure, and promoting local manufacturing can pave the way for a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

Download the 2023 Decarbonization Report.

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Clean Energy

Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

Despite concerns about nuclear waste, high-level radioactive waste constitutes less than 0.25% of all radioactive waste ever generated.

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Graphic cubes illustrating the global volume of nuclear waste and its disposal methods.

Visualizing All the Nuclear Waste in the World

Nuclear power is among the safest and cleanest sources of electricity, making it a critical part of the clean energy transition.

However, nuclear waste, an inevitable byproduct, is often misunderstood.

In collaboration with the National Public Utilities Council, this graphic shows the volume of all existing nuclear waste, categorized by its level of hazardousness and disposal requirements, based on data from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Storage and Disposal

Nuclear provides about 10% of global electricity generation.

Nuclear waste, produced as a result of this, can be divided into four different types:

  • Very low-level waste: Waste suitable for near-surface landfills, requiring lower containment and isolation.
  • Low-level waste: Waste needing robust containment for up to a few hundred years, suitable for disposal in engineered near-surface facilities.
  • Intermediate-level waste: Waste that requires a greater degree of containment and isolation than that provided by near-surface disposal.
  • High-level waste: Waste is disposed of in deep, stable geological formations, typically several hundred meters below the surface.

Despite safety concerns, high-level radioactive waste constitutes less than 0.25% of total radioactive waste reported to the IAEA.

Waste ClassDisposed (cubic meters)Stored (cubic meters)Total (cubic meters)
Very low-level waste758,802313,8821,072,684
Low-level waste1,825,558204,8582,030,416
Intermediate level waste671,097201,893872,990
High-level waste3,9605,3239,283

Stored and disposed radioactive waste reported to the IAEA under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. Data is from the last reporting year which varies by reporting country, 2019-2023.

The amount of waste produced by the nuclear power industry is small compared to other industrial activities.

While flammable liquids comprise 82% of the hazardous materials shipped annually in the U.S., radioactive waste accounts for only 0.01%.

Learn how the National Public Utilities Council is working towards the future of sustainable electricity.

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