The number of nuclear-fired power plants reached a maximum in the United States in 1987. Currently, there are 98 nuclear power reactors in 29 different U.S. states, of which there are 59 commercially operating nuclear plants. Of these reactors, all except one is more than 20 years old and almost 50 plants are over 40 years old. Many of these plants will require a license renewal before 2050 to continue operations. Currently, the vast majority of these plans are covered for 60 years under the original 40 year license and 20 year license extension. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that new capacity additions will be minimal. In June 2016, the second reactor at Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar nuclear plant went online and is considered the newest nuclear reactor in the country. The project began in 1973 and is the first new nuclear reactor to come online in about two decades. Construction on this power plant has been rife with public safety concerns, changes in regulations and energy demand, and ever-increasing construction costs.
The production costs of nuclear energy have decreased since the 2012 peak, during which time the generating costs had increased over the decade previous. The cost and interest in extending the life of nuclear plants past their 60 year licenses is largely unknown. New regulations and technological developments may arise to either encourage or discourage the use of nuclear energy in the future.