A Synopsis of Nuclear Power in the United States


Powering up the Superpower

Nuclear PowerAmerica or commonly known as United States of America, the fourth largest continent as well as country in the world and consisting the third largest population. It comprises of fifty states, sixteen territories and a federal district. Situated between Canada and Mexico spread over an area mass of about 9.83 million sq km, it is the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations as an outcome of extensive immigration from various other countries. After gaining independence on July 4 1776, the country has come a long way both culturally and economically. On the economic front The United States has been the world’s largest national economy since at least the 1920s. It has developed tremendously in past century. It has grown in every sector and every node. Industrially, financially, militarily, real estate, sports, media and entertainment. To power up such a vast nation, the American government has specially focused on the most renewable resource and that is nuclear power.

Nuclear power or energy is the use of exothermic nuclear procedures to produce useful heat and electricity. The term comprises nuclear fission, decay and fusion. At present the nuclear fission of elements in the actinide series of the periodic table create the vast majority of atomic energy in the direct service of humankind, with nuclear decay processes, mainly in the form of geothermal energy, and radioisotope thermoelectric generators, in niche uses making up the rest. The United States energy market is around 29,000 terawatt hours per year. Energy requirement per capita is approximately 7.8 tons of oil comparable per year, the 10th highest rate in the world. In 2005 forty percent of this energy came from petroleum, twenty three percent from coal, and twenty two percent from natural gas. The rest was served by nuclear power and renewable energy sources. America has always been a global leader in nuclear power, sort of a dominating position. However it has been sharing its nuclear technology with its allied nations and the countries with whom it can gain some amount of benefits in return.

The USA was a pioneer of nuclear power development. Westinghouse designed the first fully commercial pressurized water reactor of 250 MWe capacity. Yankee Rowe, which started up in 1960 and operated to 1992. Meanwhile the boiling water reactor was developed by the Argonne National Laboratory, and the first commercialized plant, Dresden 1  of 250 MWe designed by General Electric, was commenced in 1960. A prototype BWR, Vallecitos, ran from 1957 to 1963. The US nuclear power industry has undergone substantial merger in recent years, driven largely by economies of scale, deregulation of electricity prices and the increasing attractiveness of nuclear power relative to fossil generation. With deregulation of some states’ electricity markets came a wave of mergers and acquisitions in 2000-01 and at present the top 10 utilities account for more than 70% of total nuclear capacity. The consolidation has come about via mergers of utility establishments as well as acquisitions of reactors by companies desiring to grow their nuclear ability.

The continent has 100 nuclear power reactors in 31 states, operated by 30 different power companies. Since 2001 these plants have attained an average capacity factor of over 90%, producing up to 807 billion kWh per year and accounting for 20% of total electricity generated. Capacity dynamics has risen from 50% in the early 1970s, to 70% in 1991, and it passed 90% in 2002, staying at around this level since. The industry spends about $7.5 billion per year in maintenance and upgrades of these and remains the giant in the nuclear sector in the whole world.