Published: Jan 1978
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The first application of nuclear reactor systems to commercial power generation was at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, which began operating in December 1957. This station operates as part of the Duquesne Light Company grid, supplying power to the Pittsburgh, Pa. metropolitan area. Today, 21 years later, nuclear power stations satisfy a significant portion of our electrical power requirements. As of December 1970, there were in the United States 104 civilian power reactors operating or on order, having a combined electrical generating capacity of 86794 MWe (megawatt electrical). Of these, stations generating a total of 8000 MWe were operational. The total U. S. electrical generating capacity in operation at this same time was approximately 341 000 MW. Forecasters indicate that, by the last decade of this century, nuclear power will represent 40 percent of the approximately 1 400 000-MWe electrical generating capacity that will be installed by that time and will generate over 50 percent of the electricity used. Most of the power reactors in service or under construction today are thermal reactors using various coolants and moderators. Great Britain played a pioneering role in the development of gas-cooled (carbon dioxide) and graphite-moderated reactors and is the largest manufacturer of gas-cooled reactors. Canada has specialized in heavy water-cooled and moderated reactors. However, the majority of plants in use or under construction in the United States and elsewhere use light water for both coolant and moderator. The two types of light-water reactors are pressurized water reactors (PWR) and boiling water reactors (BWR).