15 Biggest Nuclear Power Plants In The World | 2024 Edition

Nuclear power plants, known for their incredibly high energy density, are a cornerstone in the quest for sustainable and reliable energy solutions. These plants house one or more nuclear reactors along with the necessary infrastructure to convert nuclear energy to electrical energy and distribute it to the grid. 

At the heart of a nuclear reactor lies the core, which houses uranium fuel pellets. Each pellet contains energy equivalent to that of one ton of coal, 149 gallons of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.

Nuclear power plants are built to operate for several decades. Many reactors designed with a lifespan of 40 years are being upgraded to operate for 60 years or more, thanks to advances in technology and safety protocols. 

Today, Nuclear energy provides nearly 10% of the world’s electricity from approximately 440 power reactors, having a combined capacity of 396.27 gigawatts. It stands as the world’s second-largest source of low-carbon power. [1]

In the United States, there are 54 active nuclear power plants. Among these, 4 plants have three reactors each, 31 have two reactors, and 19 have one reactor.

With that in mind, let’s start with the list of the 15 biggest nuclear power plants in the world. We will highlight their capacities, unique features, and their impact on both local and global scales. The following list is based on the data published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

Did you know? 

The Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant in the USSR was the world’s first nuclear power plant to generate electricity for a power grid. Opened in 1954, it produced nearly 5 megawatts of electric power, setting the stage for the development of larger and more powerful nuclear reactors. 

15. Ningde Nuclear Power Plant

Net Capacity: 4,072 MW 
Started in: 2012
Country: China
Operator: China General Nuclear Power Group

Ningde is one of the key nuclear power plants in China’s rapidly expanding nuclear energy sector. It consists of four operational reactors with potential plans for future expansion.

All four reactors are Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR), specifically the CPR-1000 model, each with a capacity of 1089 megawatts. The total cost of construction is estimated to be $7.6 billion. [2]

The plant generates about 30 billion kilowatt hours per year, supporting the national grid and aiding in the country’s efforts to meet its growing energy demands and reduce carbon emissions.

14. Qinshan Nuclear Power Station

Qinshan Phase III Units 1 & 2 / Image Courtesy: Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL)

Net Capacity: 4,110 MW
Started in: 1994
Country: China
Operator: China National Nuclear Corporation

Qinshan is the second-largest nuclear power plant in China and the eighth-largest in Asia. Located in Qinshan town of Zhejiang province, the plant has a gross installed capacity of 4,310 MW and a net capacity of 4,110 MW.

The Qinshan complex includes various reactor designs: an indigenous PWR in Phase I, more advanced PWRs in Phase II and its expansion, and CANDU PHWRs in Phase III. [3]

Phase I features a small, domestically produced nuclear reactor with a net capacity of 298 MW. Phase II consists of medium-sized 610 MW pressurized water reactors. Phase III includes two 677 MW pressurized heavy-water reactors.

13. Fukushima Daini II Nuclear Power Plant

Net Capacity: 4,400 MW 
Started in: 1982
Country: Japan
Operator: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

Japan’s Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant became the sixth largest nuclear power station in Asia after Japan’s Kansai Electric Power Co. announced its plans to decommission the remaining two reactor units of the Oi Power Plant. [4]

It is different from the Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima I) plant, which experienced the infamous meltdown in 2011. It has four operational boiling water reactors, each with a net electric output of approximately 1,100 MW.

Following the catastrophic tsunami triggered by the great earthquake of 2011, all four reactors at the Fukushima Daini plant automatically shut down but were successfully revived afterward. Another earthquake in 2016 caused some of the reactors’ cooling systems to fail temporarily.

In July 2019, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced plans to decommission the Fukushima Daini. This decision was influenced by local and national sentiment and the extensive safety requirements post-2011.

12. Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant

Image Courtesy: IAEA Imagebank

Net Capacity: 4,598 MWe
Started in: 1983
Country: South Korea
Operator: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

The Wolseong Nuclear Power Station is one of the few nuclear power plants in the world, and the only one in South Korea, that operates CANDU-type PHWR (Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor) units. These reactors are capable of running on various types of fuel, including nuclear waste.

The plant has a total of six reactors: four older PHWR units, each with a net capacity of 653 MW, and two newer OPR-1000 pressurized water reactors, designated as Shin Wolsong-1 and Shin Wolsong-2. These newer reactors, commissioned in 2012 and 2015, have a greater electric capacity of 997 MW each.

11. Cattenom Nuclear Power Plant

Image Courtesy: Stefan Kühn

Net Capacity: 5,200 MW
Started in: 1987
Country: France 
Operator: French multinational electric utility company

France is currently among the four European nations with nuclear power plants boasting a net capacity exceeding 3000 MWe, alongside Ukraine, Sweden, and Belgium. The Cattenom Nuclear Power Station is France’s third largest nuclear facility, situated in Grand Est on the Moselle River.

The plant is equipped with four pressurized water reactor units, each capable of producing 1300 MW of electric power. Constructed between 1979 and 1991, all four reactors are considered relatively modern.

The Cattenom Nuclear Power Station is owned and operated by the French multinational electric utility company, which is predominantly owned by the government of France. It employs 1,200 people regularly, with an additional 1,000 personnel during outage periods. 

10. Paluel Nuclear Power Plant

Net Capacity: 5,320 MW
Started in: 1985
Country: France 
Operator: French multinational electric utility company

Located about 40 km away from the coastal city of Dieppe in the Normandy region, Paluel is one of the largest nuclear power stations in Eastern Europe. It has four pressurized water reactor (PWR) units, each with a total power output of 1382 MW. [5]

PWRs utilize light water as both a coolant and a neutron moderator, making them the most common type of reactor worldwide. All four reactors commenced commercial operations between 1985 and 1986 and are licensed to operate until 2025-2026. They supply an average of 32 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to the public grid annually. 

The plant has encountered recurring issues related to cooling, notably due to seasonal macroalgae obstructing the supply of cold water on numerous occasions.

9. Gravelines Nuclear Power Station

Image Courtesy: Douchet Quentin

Net Capacity: 5,460 MW
Started in: 1980
Country: France 
Operator: French multinational electric utility company

The Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant is the seventh-largest nuclear power station in the world and the second-largest in Europe, following Ukraine’s Zaporizhia plant. The facility comprises six 910 MW reactors, with two reactors entering service in 1980, two in 1981, and the final two in 1985.

In 2020, Gravelines became the second nuclear plant globally to generate more than one thousand terawatt-hours of electricity, a milestone first achieved by Bruce Power Plant in Canada in 2009. [6]

Gravelines Plant accounts for 6% of France’s electricity production and employs 1,680 people. It generates an annual net output of 38,462 gigawatt-hours. 

To date, the facility has reported three minor-scale nuclear emergencies (on the INES scale): one in 2006, one in 2007, and one in 2009. Following the Fukushima disaster, additional safety measures were implemented, including more backup power supplies, enhanced flood protection, and improved emergency response protocols. 

8. Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

All six units of the Zaporizhia NPP. Zaporizhia coal power plant is visible on the far left.

Net Capacity: 5,700 MW
Started in: 1985
Country: Ukraine 
Operator: Energoatom

Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Power Station is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and is currently under Russian control. The plant houses six Soviet-made VVER-1000 pressurized light water reactors (PWR), each capable of generating 950 MW of power. This class of reactors is used exclusively in parts of Europe and Asia.

Construction of the plant began in 1980, with the first unit commissioned in 1985. The sixth and final reactor was completed in 1996. The Power Station generates almost half of Ukraine’s nuclear-derived electricity. A large-scale renovation in 2017 extended the life of the plant by an additional 10 years.

It can produce approximately 40 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually. Before Russia’s invasion in February 2022, it supplied nearly 30% of Ukraine’s electricity.

7. Hanbit Nuclear Power Plant

Image Courtesy: IAEA Imagebank

Net Capacity: 5,875 MW
Started in: 1988
Country: South Korea
Operator: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

South Korea’s Hanbit Power Plant (formerly known as Yeonggwang NPP) is one of the six nuclear power plants in the world with a capacity exceeding 5500 MWe. Located in the Jeollanam-do province, the plant is operated by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of the country’s largest power supplier, KEPCO.

The plant consists of six pressurized water reactors (PWR). The first two reactors were commissioned in 1986, followed by additional reactors in 1994, 1995, 2001, and 2002. In 2012, two reactors were shut down for eight weeks due to the discovery of forged components that had been in use since 2003.

At full capacity, this Plant generates nearly 50 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually.

6. Yangjiang Nuclear Power Station

Net Capacity: 6,516 MW 
Opened in: 2013
Country: China
Operator: Yangjiang Nuclear Power Company

Yangjiang is China’s relatively new Yangjiang Nuclear power plant with six operational reactors. These are Pressurized Water Reactors with a mix of CPR-1000 and ACPR-1000 designs.

Reactors 1-4 have an output capacity of 1,080 megawatts each, while reactors 5-6 have an output capacity of around 1,100 megawatts each, bringing the total capacity of the plant to 6,516 megawatts. The total construction cost is estimated to be $10.2 billion.

In 2021, the plant generated 49,215.06 GWh of electricity, contributing to stabilized energy prices and supporting the national economy. They have plans to introduce more advanced nuclear technologies to further enhance the plant’s capabilities and safety. [7]

5. Bruce Nuclear Generating Station

Image Courtesy: Chuck Szmurlo

Net Capacity: 6,610 MW 
Started in: 1977
Country: Canada
Operator: Bruce Power

Bruce Nuclear Power Generation is located in Inverhuron and Tiverton, Ontario, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron, from which it draws water for cooling. The facility spans approximately 9.32 square kilometers. It is the largest nuclear station in the world by total reactor count and is currently the largest employer in Bruce County, with over 4,000 workers.

The plant has undergone numerous upgrades, focusing on enhancing reactor components, improving safety systems, and boosting overall performance. The Bruce Life-Extension Program aims to ensure the plant operates safely and efficiently until the 2060s. [8]

In 2023, the Bruce plant generated over 45 billion kWh, accounting for approximately 7% of Canada’s total electricity consumption. It aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions from its site operations by 2027, making it the first nuclear operator in North America to commit to such an ambitious goal. [9]

4. Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant

Net Capacity: 6,710 MW
Started in: 2013
Country: China
Operator: Liaoning Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Company  

Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Plant is China’s newest and largest operational NPP. It has four CPR-1000 reactors and two ACPR1000 reactors. The latter is an advanced version of CPR-1000 equipped with a core catcher and double containment as additional safety measures. 

While CPR-1000 reactors have an output capacity of approximately 1,108 MW, ACPR1000 reactors can produce 1,180 MW. This results in a combined output capacity of 6,710 megawatts, accounting for roughly 12% of China’s total installed nuclear power capacity. The total construction cost is estimated to be over $12 billion. [10]

The plant is owned and operated by Liaoning Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Company, a joint venture of China Power Investment Corporation(45%), China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company (45%), and Dalian Construction Investment Group (10%). 

3. Hanul Nuclear Power Plant

Net Capacity: 7,268 MW 
Started in: 1988
Country: South Korea
Operator: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

Formally known as Uljin, the Hanul Nuclear Power Plant first went online in 1988. It currently operates eight reactors with capacities ranging from 968 MW to 1340 MW. These reactors utilize OPR-1000 and the more advanced APR-1400 technologies. [11]

The APR-1400 reactors have a higher capacity (1400 MW), enhanced safety features (less than 10−5/yr core damage frequency), and a longer operational lifespan of 60 years.

The plant incorporates multiple safety systems designed to prevent accidents and minimize the impact of any incidents. Given South Korea’s seismic activity, the reactors are designed and continually upgraded to withstand significant earthquakes.

2. Kori Nuclear Power Plant

Image Courtesy:  IAEA Imagebank

Net Capacity: 7,489 MW 
Started in: 1978
Country: South Korea
Operator: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power

The Kori Nuclear Power Plant in South Korea is owned and operated by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of KEPCO, since it began operations in 1978. The plant has a total of seven operational pressurized water reactor units, ranging from smaller WH-60 and WH-F reactors to the larger OPR-1000 PWRs.

Kori 1, the oldest reactor, was permanently shut down in June 2017 — it was South Korea’s first decommissioning of a nuclear reactor. [12]

The plant operates with a high capacity factor, typically exceeding 85%, ensuring a reliable and consistent supply of electricity. At full capacity, it can generate approximately 60 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity annually.

1. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

Image Courtesy: Flickr

Net Capacity: 7,965 MW 
Started in: 1985
Country: Japan
Operator: Tokyo Electric Power Company

With a net capacity of around 7,965 megawatts, the Japanese Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the biggest nuclear power station in the world. This gigantic power plant is stretched over an area of 4.2 square kilometers with seven reactor units, two of which are the advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR).

All seven reactors use low-enriched uranium (LEU) as fuel, which has a concentration of about 20% U235

At full capacity, this power plant can generate nearly 60 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, it provided about 6% of Japan’s total electricity. 

The plant has not been operational since 2011. However, after several safety checks and technical improvements, the Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the reloading of fuel at the plant. As of 2024, the plant’s operator, TEPCO, is seeking permission from local authorities to restart operations. [13]

Read More

Sources Cited and Additional References

  1. Current And Future Generation, Nuclear Power in the world today, World Nuclear Association
  2. Project Details, Ningde nuclear power plant in Taimushan Town, Global Energy Monitor
  3. Qinshan 3 1, Qinshan timeline and specifications, World Nuclear Association
  4. News, Japan closes Ohi 1&2 and Monju, Nuclear Engineering International
  5. Premium Insights, Power plant profile: Paluel 1, France, PowerTechnology
  6. News, French nuclear plant reaches landmark, World Nuclear News
  7. Annual Report, Nuclear Power Generating Units in Operation in 2022, CGN 
  8. David Dalton, Bruce-3 removed from service as major nuclear life extension program continues, Nucnet
  9. Sustainability Report, Company’s commitment to the environment and a clean energy future, Bruce Power 
  10. Chen Aizhu, China’s Hongyanhe Nuclear Power puts sixth reactor into commercial operation, Reuters
  11. Issued Design Certification, Advanced power reactor 1400 (APR1400), NRC
  12. Country Profile, Nuclear Power in South Korea, World Nuclear Association
  13. Yuka Obayashi, Japan lifts operational ban on world’s biggest nuclear plant, Reuters
Written by
Bipro Das

I am a content writer and researcher with over seven years of experience covering all gaming and anime topics. I also have a keen interest in the retail sector and often write about the business models/strategies of popular brands.

I started content writing after completing my graduation. After writing tech-related things and other long-form content for 2-3 years, I found my calling with games and anime. Now, I get to find new games and write features and previews.

When not writing for RankRed, I usually prefer reading investing books or immersing myself in Europa Universalis 4. But I am currently interested in some new JRPGs as well.

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