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PolitiFact: Bill Kristol mostly right: The U.S. has 104 nuclear power reactors

The statement

"Twenty percent of our electricity currently comes from nuclear power plants. I think there are 104 in the United States, two of them around the coast in California."

Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, in an interview on Fox News Sunday

The ruling

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Kristol about how the situation in Japan could affect the use of nuclear power in the United States.

"Bill, at a time when Democrats and Republicans were finally getting together and supporting nuclear power as safe, clean, nonpolluting energy, and President Obama had $36 billion in loan credits in his 2012 budget to promote more plants, what happens now to the domestic industry?" Wallace asked.

Kristol said, "Well, we can probably save $36 billion from the 2012 budget because I think it's a bit of a setback to nuclear power here in the U.S. I'll go out on a limb and make that prediction.

"But, you know, people will say, well, we build new plants. Twenty percent of our electricity currently comes from nuclear power plants. I think there are 104 in the United States, two of them around the coast in California."

We checked the Statistical Abstract of the United States, which is published by the U.S. Census Bureau. It includes a table summarizing electricity generation by fuel type through 2009. Dividing net electric generation via nuclear power by net generation in the electric power sector as a whole, we get 20.9 percent.

Next, we went to the website of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The agency has a page where you can find active nuclear generating facilities on a map and in alphabetical order. There are exactly 104 sites listed.

Kristol's only error was in suggesting there are 104 nuclear power plants; in fact, there are 104 nuclear power reactors. Because many plants have more than one reactor, the number of plants is 65. (This list doesn't count military and scientific reactors.)

Finally, we checked Kristol's claim about nuclear facilities on the California coast. There are, in fact, two: Diablo Canyon, 12 miles from San Luis Obispo, and San Onofre, 46 miles from Long Beach. The plants are near the water.

So Kristol erred only with his mislabeling of "reactors" as "plants." We rate his statement Mostly True.

Louis Jacobson, Times staff writer

Edited for print. For more rulings, go to

PolitiFact: Bill Kristol mostly right: The U.S. has 104 nuclear power reactors 03/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 17, 2011 8:04pm]
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