The US nuclear power industry is entering a second phase, as plants reach the end of their original licences and operators apply for renewals. Of over 100 nuclear plants built in the USA, only eight have been taken out of service by being decommissioned. As a sign of the future, Baltimore Gas and Electric filed for a 20-year extension in April for two units at Calvert Cliffs, while Duke Power recently filed for an extension of its licence for three units at Oconee.

In contrast, the board of the Maine Yankee plant decided to close it as uneconomic. The plant began operating in 1972.

About 40 per cent of the 109 US nuclear plants will reach the end of their licences by 2015. The remainder expire by 2033.