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US Nuclear Power Plants Fast Facts

CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at nuclear power plants in the United States.

There are 93 commercial nuclear power reactor units licensed to operate in the United States.

The nuclear power reactor units provide the US with about 20% of its electricity.

Other Facts

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC maintains a threat assessment branch, which assesses security threats to nuclear facilities throughout the country. There are four NRC regions.

Sixty-two reactor units are pressurized water reactors and 31 are boiling water reactors. These two types of reactors are the only reactors that are in commercial operation in the United States.

There are 31 licensed and operating research reactors in the US. The majority are located at colleges or universities.

Since September 11, additional security measures have been put in place at nuclear facilities, including increased patrols, additional physical barriers and enhanced officer training.

After an earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused an accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011, the NRC implemented short-term and long-term programs to enhance safety at facilities in the United States.


May 26, 1958 – As a part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program, the first commercial nuclear power plant opens as the Shippingport Atomic Power Station.

March 28, 1979 – The Three Mile Island nuclear plant near Middleton, Pennsylvania, partially melts down due to a combination of factors including design flaws, equipment malfunction and human error. The accident remains the most serious nuclear power incident in the United States.

1989 – The Shippingport Station becomes the first successfully decommissioned nuclear power plant in the country.

January 1990 – Fuel removal from Three Mile Island is completed.

August 23, 2011 – The North Anna Nuclear Power Station near Mineral, Virginia, shuts down due to a 5.8 magnitude earthquake.

February 9, 2012 – The NRC approves plans to build two new nuclear reactors near Augusta, Georgia. It is the first approval of new reactors since 1978. Construction of the reactors is delayed amid funding problems.

October 22, 2015 – The Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power reactor, located in Tennessee, receives a full operating license from the NRC. Watts Bar is the first US reactor authorized to operate since 1996 and is also the first plant to comply with new orders from the NRC on Fukushima-related safety strategies.

October 19, 2016 – Watts Bar Unit 2 begins commercial operation, making it the first US reactor to go live in 20 years.

May 30, 2017 – The operator of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant announces that the facility will close in 2019.

May 8, 2019 – Exelon Generation announces that Three Mile Island Generating Station Unit 1 will shut down by September 30.

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