Policy Briefs

US Nuclear Technology Experience Innovation and World Class Service

American expertise established the world’s largest nuclear energy program and fostered the use of this technology around the world. Our dedication to excellence maintains 104 U.S. reactors at world-class levels of safety and reliability. Our innovation, knowledge and experience are guiding the expansion of the U.S. nuclear energy program. The U.S. nuclear industry has the knowledge, experience and expanding infrastructure to support nuclear facility construction, operation and maintenance around the world.



August 2010

American expertise established the world’s largest nuclear energy program and fostered the use of this technology around the world. Our dedication to excellence maintains 104 U.S. reactors at world-class levels of safety and reliability. Our innovation, knowledge and experience are guiding the expansion of the U.S. nuclear energy program. The U.S. nuclear industry has the knowledge, experience and expanding infrastructure to support nuclear facility construction, operation and maintenance around the world.


Key Points:

  • Nuclear power plants provided 14 percent of the world’s electricity in 2009, while protecting the air, water and soil. In fact, nuclear energy has one of the lowest impacts on the environment of any energy source because it emits no air pollution, isolates its waste from the environment and requires a relatively small amount of land.
  • More than 60 percent of the world’s 440 operating reactors are based on technology developed in the United States. Almost half of all nuclear power plants are based on Westinghouse pressurized water technology, and nearly 20 percent are based on GE boiling water technology.  Today, many of the 61 nuclear plants under construction around the world rely on U.S. companies for reactor designs, engineering, precision components, high-performance nuclear fuel and more. 
  • The dynamic, growing U.S. nuclear industry has proposed building more than 30 reactors in the United States, while continuing the successful development of safe, clean nuclear energy around the globe. This expansion is supported by the industry’s expertise, refined through 50 years’ experience in building and maintaining the world’s largest nuclear energy program. Even as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing license applications for new plants, companies have begun contracting for engineering and construction services, ordering major components and performing preliminary site work.
  • The industry has invested more than $4 billion in new U.S. nuclear power plants during the past several years and created 15,000 jobs. An additional $8 billion investment will follow during the next few years. The first new nuclear plants in the United States are expected to begin operating around 2016.  
  • In developing new reactors, the industry can point to the success of the existing 104 reactors, which provide 20 percent of America’s electricity. U.S. nuclear plants have a strong safety record, an aver-age capacity factor of 90 percent—demonstrating very high reliability—and are among the lowest-cost producers of electricity. They generate about 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity every year—enough to provide power for Mexico and France combined. 
 
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U.S. Nuclear Energy Capabilities at a Glance

The U.S. nuclear industry provides a wide range of nuclear services, technologies and products to meet the needs of customers worldwide.

Services and Equipment

Operational Performance. One reason the United States has been able to defer the need for new nuclear power plants until recently is the increased performance of our existing reactors, which have an average capacity factor of 90 percent. Nuclear system specialists work with electric companies to refine procedures, improve equipment, and reduce the length of outages for refueling and maintenance. 





Power Uprates. In addition to improving plant performance, U.S. electric companies have added the equivalent of five or six new reactors in the past 30 years by upgrading their existing reactors. These projects, called “power uprates,” require detailed engineering analysis and plant modifications to produce more electricity from the same plant.  

Refurbishment. Tennessee Valley Authority refurbished the Browns Ferry 1 reactor in a five-year, $1.9 billion project, on schedule and within budget. The reactor had been shut down since 1985, but was res-tarted in 2007 and provides electricity to serve 800,000 homes. In addition, TVA has resumed construc-tion of the Watts Bar 2 plant, which was placed on hold in 1988.

Components. When manufacturing components for nuclear applications, it is important to start with the right pedigree of materials. U.S. companies produce materials certified in accordance with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers code, including fasteners and commercially dedicated materials and components. With locations around the world and extensive export experience, they can set up conve-nient local supply chains to meet all your needs for materials used in nuclear technology applications.

Nuclear Fuel and Services. U.S.-based manufacturers offer high-performance nuclear fuel for pressurized water reactors and boiling water reactors. They work with electric power companies to develop refu-eling solutions that yield reliable fuel performance and high electricity output, and research and develop-ment of new fuel designs are ongoing. Services for uranium conversion and enrichment are available, and substantial new, advanced enrichment capacity is in various stages of technological development, testing, deployment and start-up. U.S. vendors also offer expertise in the packaging, transport and sto-rage of used nuclear fuel.

Uranium Production. The U.S. uranium-production industry is ramping up domestic operations to meet the needs of the growing nuclear energy industry. In 2008, uranium exploration expenditures in the United States were up 673 percent over 2004 with nearly 1.6 million meters drilled. Production rose 58 percent over that same period to 3.3 million pounds of U3O8 (1,492 metric tons) in 2008. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Red Book reports that U.S. uranium resources of 457 million pounds U3O8 recoverable at $59 per pound (207,435 metric tons recoverable at $130 per kilogram) rank it sixth globally. In addition to this abundance of identified reserves and resources, the American uranium industry offers a reliable supply from a stable political and regulatory jurisdiction where most of the production can be achieved using the environmentally friendly in-situ recovery method.

Advanced Reactor Designs

U.S. companies are at the forefront of developing advanced reactor designs that are even safer and more efficient than our existing fleet of world-class reactors, incorporating modular techniques for easier construction. New designs include:

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). Four ABWRs have been com-pleted and put into commercial operation; four more are under construction in Taiwan and Japan. One U.S. company has chosen the ABWR for a proposed new plant. 

Westinghouse AP1000. Four AP1000s are under construction in China. Five U.S. utilities have chosen this design for possible construction.  

GE Hitachi ESBWR. One U.S. electric utility is considering building this design. 

Small Modular Reactors. U.S. companies also are developing highly advanced reactor designs based on new technologies, including small modular reactors.