Special Report

America's Biggest Nuclear Power Plants

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To address the ongoing climate change crisis, the Biden Administration set a target for the U.S. to have a net-zero emissions economy by 2050. Achieving this goal will require a carbon-pollution-free energy sector – and making the transition will not be easy. (Here is a look at the fastest growing and shrinking clean energy jobs). 

Energy production is a hot-button political issue in the climate change era, and one of the more controversial topics is nuclear power. Nuclear power plants generate nuclear waste, which cannot be destroyed and requires long-term storage. Additionally, as accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979, the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986, and the Fukushima plant in Japan in 2011 have demonstrated, malfunctions can be catastrophic. 

Still, nuclear plants offer carbon-free energy production, and, unlike some renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, nuclear plants provide reliable output. Nuclear plants are also powerful, and generate electricity about 8,000 times more efficiently than fossil-fuel-powered plants. Currently, there are some 93 active nuclear reactors in the United States, accounting for about 19% of the country’s total energy production. (Whether from nuclear plants or other sources, this is now much renewable energy your state produces.) 

Using data from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s most powerful nuclear power plants. Plants are ranked on the combined maximum output of their reactors. 

Every nuclear power plant on this list has an estimated maximum power generation capacity of at least 1.97 gigawatts, and generates that with relatively little space. Wind farms, for example, require 360 times more land area than a nuclear power plant to produce the same amount of electricity. 

Click here to see America’s biggest nuclear power plants
Click here to see our detailed methodology

Market forces have caused several large nuclear plants to close operations in recent years. One of the plants on this list, Diablo Canyon in California, is slated for retirement by the end of 2025. 

Source: departmentofenergy / Flickr

22. Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station
> Electricity production capacity: 1,913 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Scriba, NY (6 miles NE of Oswego, NY)
> Start of commercial operations: Dec. 1, 1969

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Source: Robert Michaud / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

21. St. Lucie Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 1,968 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Jensen Beach, FL (10 miles SE of Ft. Pierce, FL)
> Start of commercial operations: Dec. 21, 1976

Source: departmentofenergy / Flickr

20. Millstone Power Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,073 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Waterford, CT (3 miles WSW of New London, CT)
> Start of commercial operations: Dec. 26, 1975

19. Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,177 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Bridgman, MI (13 miles S of Benton Harbor, MI)
> Start of commercial operations: Aug. 28, 1975

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18. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,240 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Avila Beach, CA (12 miles WSW of San Luis Obispo, CA)
> Start of commercial operations: May 7, 1985

Source: arlutz73 / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

17. Limerick Generating Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,242 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Limerick, PA (21 miles NW of Philadelphia, PA)
> Start of commercial operations: Feb. 1, 1986

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Source: knowlesgallery / iStock via Getty Images

16. Watts Bar Nuclear Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,245 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Spring City, TN (60 miles SW of Knoxville, TN)
> Start of commercial operations: May 27, 1996

Source: kodda / iStock / Getty Images Plus

15. LaSalle County Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,265 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Marseilles, IL (11 miles SE of Ottawa, IL)
> Start of commercial operations: Jan. 1, 1984

Source: Tom Brakefield / Stockbyte via Getty Images

14. Sequoyah Nuclear Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,278 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Soddy-Daisy, TN (16 miles NE of Chattanooga, TN)
> Start of commercial operations: July 1, 1981

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13. Salem Nuclear Generating Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,295 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Hancocks Bridge, NJ (18 miles SE of Wilmington, DE)
> Start of commercial operations: June 30, 1977

12. Byron Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,300 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Byron, Il (17 miles SW of Rockford, IL)
> Start of commercial operations: Sept. 16, 1985

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

11. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,302 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Waynesboro, GA (26 miles SE of Augusta, GA)
> Start of commercial operations: June 1, 1987

10. Catawba Nuclear Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,310 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: York, SC (18 miles SW of Charlotte, NC)
> Start of commercial operations: June 29, 1985

9. McGuire Nuclear Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,316 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Huntersville, NC (17 miles N of Charlotte, NC)
> Start of commercial operations: Dec. 1, 1981

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Source: Deejpilot / iStock / Getty Images Plus

8. Braidwood Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,337 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Braceville, IL (20 miles SSW of Joliet, IL)
> Start of commercial operations: July 29, 1988

7. Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 2,400 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Glen Rose, TX (40 miles SW of Fort Worth, TX)
> Start of commercial operations: Aug. 13, 1990

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Source: gsheldon / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

6. Susquehanna Steam Electric Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,494 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Salem Township, Luzerne Co., PA (70 miles NE of Harrisburg, PA)
> Start of commercial operations: June 8, 1983

5. Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,550 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Delta, PA (18 miles S of Lancaster, PA)
> Start of commercial operations: July 5, 1974

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

4. Oconee Nuclear Station
> Electricity production capacity: 2,554 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 3
> Location: Seneca, SC (30 miles W of Greenville, SC)
> Start of commercial operations: July 15, 1973

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. South Texas Project
> Electricity production capacity: 2,560 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 2
> Location: Bay City, TX (90 miles SW of Houston, TX)
> Start of commercial operations: Aug. 25, 1988

Source: toddmedia / iStock via Getty Images

2. Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
> Electricity production capacity: 3,775 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 3
> Location: Limestone County, AL (10 miles S of Athens, AL, and 32 miles W of Huntsville, AL)
> Start of commercial operations: Aug. 1, 1974

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1. Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station
> Electricity production capacity: 3,937 megawatts
> No. of nuclear reactors: 3
> Location: Wintersburg, AZ (50 miles W of Phoenix, AZ)
> Start of commercial operations: Jan. 28, 1986

Methodology

To identify America’s most powerful nuclear power plants, 24/7 Wall St. looked at the combined capacity of electricity production in megawatts (MWe) produced by nuclear power plants across the country according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Megawatt energy in electricity, the location of each nuclear power plant, and the number of reactors that contribute to the final megawatt output come from the NRC. All data is current as of 2021.

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