U.S. Nuclear Energy - Statistics & Facts

Globally, the United States is the largest consumer of nuclear power. The consumption of nuclear power in the United States has increased slightly over the last decades, reaching 191,7 million metric tons of oil equivalent 2017. The United States has one of the highest shares of electricity consumption from nuclear power worldwide. Nuclear plants generally run all day, with the exception of maintenance or refueling periods, and thus, act as baseload generators. In comparison to other fuels, the generation capacity of nuclear is dispatched at much higher rates.

The number of nuclear-fired power plants reached a maximum in the United States in 1987. Currently, there are 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 different U.S. states that are operated by 30 different companies. Of these, all except one is more than 20 years old and more than 40 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. 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.

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