Special Report

America's Oldest Nuclear Power Plants

The Shippingport Atomic Power Station in western Pennsylvania became the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States when it came online in 1958. Since then, nuclear energy has become an integral part of the national power grid. Today, there are 55 commercial nuclear power plants nationwide, and for the last four decades, nuclear reactors have accounted for about 20% of U.S. energy production annually. 

Of course, nuclear power plants have limited lifespans. The Shippingport Atomic Powers Station, for example, was shut down in 1982 amid safety concerns. Currently, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, licenses plants to operate a nuclear reactor for 40 years, afterwhich, plants must apply to extend their license in 20 year increments. 

Though the oldest commercial nuclear plant in the United States is long since closed, there are dozens of active plants that have been in operation for decades. (These are the states with the most nuclear power plants.)

Using data from the NRC, 24/7 Wall St. identified the oldest nuclear power plants in the United States. Plants are ranked by the date their oldest active nuclear reactor went online.

It is important to note that nuclear power plants generate electricity often through multiple nuclear reactors that went online at different times. For the purposes of this story, only the oldest active reactor at each plant was considered. (Also see, U.S. wind farms generating the most electricity.)

Partially because of the hazardous nature of nuclear waste, fully decommissioning a nuclear reactor can be a decades-long process. Some of the plants on this list, including the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut, and the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station in Delta, Pennsylvania, have reactors that are older than the date noted. These reactors, however, are no longer active and are in the process of being decommissioned.

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

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