Facts About Nuclear

  • There are 104 commercial nuclear reactors with operating licenses at 64 sites in 31 states.
  • There are 32 companies licensed to operate nuclear reactors in the U.S.
  • As of June 2010, there are 438 operating nuclear reactors in 29 countries worldwide.
  • Energy demand - Nuclear energy provides about 20% of the United States' electricity.
  • Production - In 2009, nuclear power generated 798.7 billion kilowatt-hours (KWh) in the U.S.
  • Capacity factor - Average industry capacity factor in 2009 was 90.5%.
  • The average capacity factor for U.S. nuclear power plants has hovered at or near 90% since the start of the decade, while electricity production has risen approximately 16% over the past 10 years. The increase in electricity production — from 673 billion kilowatt-hours in 1995 to 782 billion kwh in 2005 — is roughly equivalent to bringing 14 new 1,000 megawatt power plants into service.
  • Improved operations since 1980 - The nuclear industry has managed to increase its average annual capacity factor (from around 56.3% in 1980 to 66% in 1990 and to 90.5% in 2009).
  • U.S. state usage - Eight states have nuclear as the largest percentage of their electricity: Vermont (72.3%), South Carolina (52%), New Hampshire (44.1%), Illinois (48.7%), New Jersey (55.1%), Connecticut (53.4%),Virginia (39.6%) Pennsylvania (35.1%).v
  • World usage - In 2009, approximately 14% of worldwide electricity was generated from nuclear reactors. Countries generating the largest percentage of their electricity from nuclear energy were France (75.2%), Slovakia (53.5%), Belgium (51.7%), Bulgaria 35.9%), Sweden (37.4%), Ukraine (48.6%), Hungary (43.0%), Slovenia (37.8%), Switzerland (39.5%), Korea, Rep. (34.8%), Armenia (45.0%). In total, 16 countries relied on nuclear energy to supply at least one-quarter of their total electricity. (NEI)
  • Nuclear fuel - Nuclear power plants use uranium oxide to generate electricity. Fuel, in the form of small ceramic pellets, is placed inside metal fuel rods. Rods are then grouped into bundles called assemblies. Fission occurs when uranium atoms split, causing a reaction that produces heat energy. This energy is used to boil water into steam, which drives a turbine generator to produce electricity. Every 18 to 24 months, about one-third of the nuclear fuel in a reactor core needs to be unloaded and replaced with fresh fuel.
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