After World War II, most scientists thought nuclear power would become the energy of the future. In 1945, the book The Atomic Age predicted homes, cars and planes of the future would be powered by nuclear energy. Nuclear power revolutionized the U.S. Navy.
Most of the nuclear power plants in the United States were built between 1970 and 1990. U.S. nuclear plants are licensed for an initial operating life of 40 years by the
(NRC). Nuclear power plants can apply for a license renewal, extending license expiration by 20 years. The decision to apply for a renewal is based on the economics of the capital investments required to extend the operating lifetime and estimated future revenues.
Nuclear power has provided the United States with approximately 19% of the country’s electrical power. Nuclear power doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. However, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1979, changed public perception on the safety of nuclear power.
Nuclear reactor additions began to slow in the 1980s due to slowing growth in electricity demand, high capital and construction costs, and public opposition. Most of the nuclear reactors in the United States are east of the Mississippi River.
Construction of nuclear reactors began to slow in the 1980s due to slowing growth in electricity demand, high capital and construction costs, and public opposition. The 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident caused significant increases in plant construction costs. New federal government safety requirements significantly increase the time to build a nuclear plant. The Three Mile Island nuclear accident also created growing anti-nuclear sentiment from the general public.
Nuclear capacity has decreased in the United States in recent years as plants have been closed or retired. In 1990, there were 132 operating nuclear reactors. Six nuclear reactors have been retired since 2013. Today, there are 99 operating nuclear reactors. Seven additional nuclear reactors are scheduled to be retired by 2025.
The US nuclear industry had hoped for a revival of the industry over the past decade because of concerns about climate change and global warming. However, nuclear power is significantly more expensive than power plants fueled by natural gas, hydroelectric, wind, solar, geothermal, oil, or coal. Additionally, the Fukushima nuclear disaster created more concern about the safety of nuclear energy.
In my opinion, I expect a continued decline in nuclear power plants in the United States and Europe because of high electricity costs compared to other forms of renewable energy and the public’s concern about the risks of nuclear power.