On July 16, 1945, the world’s first ever nuclear explosion took place in the state of New Mexico when the US military tested a plutonium implosion device. The explosion took place in a dessert located 200 miles from the city of Los Alamos, on top of a 100-foot tower. As soon as the plutonium device exploded, the tower vaporized into ash and the surrounding desert sands turned into green glass.
With an introduction like this to nuclear substances and especially after what happened during the nuclear power plant explosion in Chernobyl, it is no surprise that people are skeptical about the development of nuclear power plants. But due to the incredible advancement of science and technology since the 1940s, governments have been able to develop nuclear power plants while properly maintaining the safety guidelines.
Nowadays, the use of nuclear energy in the fields of medical science and space exploration has become very common. Furthermore, one-fifth of all electricity produced in the US comes from nuclear energy. So, here is a list of the largest nuclear power plants in the US.
1. Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station
With a capacity of 3.9GW, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is the largest nuclear power in the US right now. This power plant is located near the city of Tonopah, Arizona. Arizona’s deserts make it a perfect destination to set up power plants.
This power plant is mainly owned by Arizona Power Service, Salt River Project, El Paso Electric, South California Edison and Public Service co. of New Mexico, and it is operated by Arizona Power Service on behalf of all the owners. As of 2013, the average electricity generation in Palo Verde was 3.3 gigawatts, serving around four million people in the US.
2. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant has a total capacity of 3.4GW, making it the second largest nuclear power plant in the US. Located in Athens, Alabama, this huge power plant is equipped with 3 units of boiling water reactors. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and it produces enough electricity to serve over two million people across the country.
Furthermore, it implemented EPU units one and two which increased the capacity by 155MW, costing around $475 million. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant was first opened in 1966 as TVA’s first nuclear power plant, and it was named after a ferry that used to work in that location during the 20th century.
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3. South Texas Project Electric Generating Station
South Texas Project Electric Generating Station is a 2.7GW capacity nuclear power plant that is located southwest of Bay City, Texas. STP Nuclear Operating Company operates this huge nuclear power plant that occupies around 12,200-acre of land and uses cooling water from its 7,000-acre off channel reservoir.
Currently, this power plant has two operating reactors with a gross capacity of 1,354MW each and has two additional reactors planned. Along with 16 Mt carbon emissions per year, it also provides electricity to over two million people across the US.
4. Oconee Nuclear Station
Oconee Nuclear Station is a nuclear power station consisting of 3 PWR units and has a total capacity of 2.62GW. The first of the three units was launched in 1973 and the other two followed in 1974. Oconee Nuclear Station is currently owned and operated by Duke Energy and is the second power plant to have its license renewed for an additional 20 years by the NRC.
This power plant supplies electricity to around 2 million people and is located in Seneca, South California. The containment building is built of steel liner, The reactor vessels are developed with 8 inch-thick walls and weigh 660 tons.
5. Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant
Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant is located in Salem Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. It is the second largest nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania with a total capacity of 2.6GW, only behind Peach Bottom Nuclear Station. The Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant is operated by Susquehanna Nuclear and is jointly owned by Talen Energy (90%) and Allegheny Electric Cooperative (10%).
This power plant has two boiling water reactors called Susquehanna-1 and Susquehanna-2 that combined have a gross capacity of 1,300MW. As of right now, Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant is providing electricity to over two million people across the country.
6. McGuire Nuclear Station
McGuire Nuclear Station is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and, it uses Charlotte’s Lake Norman as primary cooling source. This power plant was first established in 1981 with its first unit and the second unit started operating in 1984. McGuire Nuclear Station is owned and operated by Duke Energy.
The power plant’s two PWR units gross 1,215MW each and supplies electricity to approximately 1.7 million people across the US. As part of its containment system, McGuire Nuclear Station uses ice condensers to limit pressure in case of an accidental steam release. It has a total capacity of 2.38GW, making it one of the largest nuclear power plants in the US.
7. Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station
Peach Bottom Nuclear Generating Station is located in York County, Pennsylvania and is one of the largest nuclear power plants in the US with a total capacity of 2.77GW. It is equipped with 2 units of boiling water reactors, both of which were established in 1974. This power plant is operated by Exelon Generation and is jointly owned by Exelon Generation and New Jersey’s Public Service Electric and Gas.
Along with serving electricity to over two and a half million people across the country, it also offsets carbon emissions of 19 Mt per year. Additionally, Peach Bottom was one of the power plants that was analyzed in the well-documented safety analysis study called NUREG-1150.
8. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
Vogtle Electric Generating Plant is a nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2.43GW, located in Burke County, Waynesboro, Georgia. Currently, the power plant has two PWR units that gross 2,430MW combined and two additional reactors are under construction.
Furthermore, Vogtle Electric Generating Plant has four mechanical drafts cooling towers to provide nuclear cooling water service for safety and non-safety components. This cooling system also helps in reducing the decay heat from the reactors. This power plant is operated by Southern Nuclear and its cooling source is the Savannah River.
9. Salem Nuclear Power Plant
The Salem Nuclear Power Plant is a two-unit pressurized water reactor nuclear power plant in Salem County, New Jersey, in the United States. It is situated in Lower Alloways Creek Township. Constellation Energy and PSEG Nuclear LLC jointly own it.
10. Byron Nuclear Generating Station
Byron Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located in Ogle County, Illinois and uses Illinois’s famous Rock River as its cooling source. It has two PWR reactors, The first unit started operating in 1985 and the second unit started operating in 1987.
In 2005, Byron generated around 2,450MW of electricity, which was enough to serve two million residents of Illinois. Byron Nuclear Generating Station is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation and has a total capacity of 2.34GW. Additionally, it also has two natural drafts as cooling towers for the reactors. The two operational units gross 2,300MW combined.
11. Limerick Generating Station
Northwest of Philadelphia, in Limerick Township, Montgomery County, is where the Pennsylvania Limerick Generating Station is situated near to the Schuylkill River. Two General Electric boiling water reactor (BWR) units, which are cooled by natural draft cooling towers, are present at the site.
The combined output of the two plants, which is over 2,200 megawatts, would be enough to power over 2 million homes. After splitting from Exelon Corporation in 2022, Constellation Energy is now the owner and operator of this facility.
12. Braidwood Generating Station
With a total capacity of 2.39GW, Braidwood Generating Station is the largest nuclear power plant in Illinois. It first started operating in 1988 and at present is owned and operated by Exelon Corporation. This nuclear power plant supplies electricity to around two million people and has over 800 employees.
Braidwood Generating Station has two PWR reactors, the first operational unit grosses 1,194MW and the second one grosses 1,160MW. The thermal capacity of this power plant is 2 × 3645MW and its cooling source is Braidwood Lake.
As of 2020, the United States is home to 56 nuclear power plants spread across 28 states. Nuclear power plants provide us with sufficient energy for space exploration, They are used in medical diagnosis and procedures and are currently responsible for 20% of all electricity production in the US. Each of the nuclear power plants mentioned above provides electricity to around 2 million people.
The future of energy production is nuclear power plants and the US is ahead of any other country in the world in terms of nuclear energy production. Today, most of the commercial reactors in the US are owned by private organizations. As we can see, three of the nuclear power plants on our list are owned by nuclear electric company Exelon Corporation and two are owned by Duke Energy, both of which are commercial organizations.