Pennsylvania has a rich nuclear energy history.

Pennsylvania today ranks second in the nation for nuclear power generating capacity, owed to a long tradition of nuclear energy leadership and technological innovation.

In 1957, Pennsylvania’s Beaver County became home to the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States. Located on the Ohio River, about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station was the world’s first atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses.

The Shippingport Atomic Power Station was distinctly different than modern nuclear power plants. Originally developed with the intention of advancing nuclear power technology, the plant played a major role in advancing the basic nuclear technology we use today. As such, the plant was used as both a power producer and test facility, anchoring innovation in this crucial segment of the energy mix. This history of innovation in Pennsylvania created new jobs, companies and technologies for the state. Today, the state benefits from the thousands of homegrown companies that have developed along with the industry, right here in Pennsylvania.

Shippingport Atomic Power Station’s History At-A-Glance1

  • The Shippingport nuclear reactor’s establishment was a pivotal moment in history. Ground was broken in 1954, in an exciting and never-before-seen display of technology. President Dwight D. Eisenhower participated in the opening ceremony via an electric hookup. Millions of people across the nation were able to see and listen to the proceedings of the ground-breaking via radio and television.
  • In his remarks, President Eisenhower said, “…through knowledge we are sure to gain from this new plant we begin today, I am confident that the atom will not be devoted exclusively to the destruction of man, but will be his mighty servant and tireless benefactor.”
  • On December 2, 1977, the first U.S. light water breeder reactor went to full power at Shippingport. The first power at Shippingport was produced on December 18, 1957, and was fed into the Duquesne Light Company grid, which provided power to the Pittsburgh area.
  • The Shippingport Atomic Power Station provided electricity to Pennsylvanians for nearly 30 years, before being retired and replaced by two existing Beaver Valley reactors.
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  1. American Society of Mechanical Engineers