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Shippingport Atomic Power Station
The Shippingport reactor was the first full-scale PWR nuclear power plant in the United States.
The Shippingport reactor was the first full-scale PWR nuclear power plant in the United States.
Country  United States
Location Beaver County, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°37′48″N 80°25′04″W / 40.63°N 80.41778°W / 40.63; -80.41778Coordinates: 40°37′48″N 80°25′04″W / 40.63°N 80.41778°W / 40.63; -80.41778
Operator Duquesne Light Company
Built 1954-09-06
Start of commercial operation 1958-05-26
Reactors shut down 1 (60 MW)
Status Decommissioned
Other details
Cost $72.5 million
License expires 1982-10-01
NRC region Region 1

The Shippingport Atomic Power Station, "the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses,"[1] was located near the present-day Beaver Valley Nuclear Generating Station on the Ohio River in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles (40 km) from Pittsburgh. The reactor went online December 2, 1957, and was in operation until October, 1982.

Shippingport was created and operated under the auspices of Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, whose authority included a substantial role within the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

The reactor was capable of an output of 60 MWe. The reactor was designed with two uses in mind: for powering aircraft carriers, and serving as a prototype for commercial electrical power generation.[2] In 1977, it was converted to a Pressurized Light-Water Breeder Reactor (PLWBR).



In 1953, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his Atoms for Peace speech to the United Nations. Commercial nuclear power generation was cornerstone of his plan. A proposal by Duquesne Light Company was accepted by Admiral Rickover and the plans for the Shippingport Atomic Power Station started.

Ground was broken on Labor Day, 1954-09-06. President Eisenhower remotely initiated the first scoop of dirt at the ceremony.[3] The reactor first went critical at 4:30 AM on 1957-12-02.[4] On 1957-12-18, the first power was generated and full power was achieved on 1957-12-23,[4] although the station remained in test mode. Eisenhower opened the Shippingport Atomic Power Station on 1958-05-26. The plant was built in 32 months at a cost of $72.5 million.[1]


Reactor pressure vessel during construction - photo taken in 1956

On October 1st, 1982, the reactor ceased operations after 25 years.[5] Dismantlement of the facility began in September 1985.[6] In December 1988, the 956-ton (870-T) reactor pressure vessel/neutron shield tank assembly was lifted out of the containment building and loaded onto land transportation equipment in preparation for removal from the site and shipment to a burial facility in Washington State.[7] The site has been cleaned up and released for unrestricted use.

The $98 million (1985 estimate) cleanup of Shippingport has been used as an example of a successful reactor decommissioning by proponents of nuclear power. However, critics point out that Shippingport was smaller than most commercial nuclear power plants;[6] most reactors in the United States are about 1,000 MWe, while Shippingport was only 60 MWe.


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