Cover Story

The Life Span of U.S. Reactors


America's fleet of nuclear power plants is aging. Their basic design goes back to a technology developed for nuclear submarines in the 1950s. New designs are far safer. Ironically, though, accidents in old plants like the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors in Japan could kill public support for construction of the new models. Meanwhile, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must decide whether to extend the operating licenses of the existing fleet.

Below are noteworthy points in America's nuclear history:

A. On Mar. 21 the federal appellate court in Philadelphia questioned the NRC's 2009 relicensing of Oyster Creek in light of its similarity to Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors

B. The NRC on Mar. 21 extended Vermont Yankee's license by 20 years, even though it closely resembles the Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactors. State lawmakers could still say no

C. This reactor sat idle for six years after the reactor it sits alongside partially melted down in 1979

D. The two operating reactors at Indian Point provide almost 30 percent of nearby New York City and Westchester's power

E. On the Delaware Bay, Salem Nuclear once employed Bruce Willis as a security guard

F. SCANA Energy hopes that two new Westinghouse passive reactors will join the reactor currently in operation here in 2016 and 2019

G. Although three reactors were built near the shore of Lake Erie, only two remain in operation. Fermi 1, a breeder reactor, partially melted down in 1966

H. & I. These reactors, close to two major fault lines, are designed to withstand a 7.5 magnitude earthquake

J. The last reactor to be licensed sits alongside an unfinished reactor on which construction was suspended in 1988 because of a reduction in predicted energy consumption

Powell is a visualization designer for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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