Shippingport, Pennsylvania ( 40°37'54.98"N, 80°24'51.01"W) was the site of the world’s first large-scale nuclear power plant, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station. On December 2, 1957, exactly 15 years after the first sustained nuclear reaction was demonstrated by Enrico Fermi, the Shippingport nuclear power plant opened for operation on land owned by the Duquesne Light Company of Pittsburgh. In addition to providing the land for development of the plant, the Duquesne Light Company also contributed financially to the government-owned operation. After three years the Pittsburg community was being supplied with electricity produced from the nuclear power site.
The Shippingport plant was innovative in that it was designed not only to provide electricity but to further atomic research and development as part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program. The plant was capable of supporting nuclear fission reactions using different types of cores allowing several designs and materials to be tested. The plant operated via a pressurized water reactor which utilizes light, or ordinary, water as both a coolant and neutron moderator and ran on 93% enriched uranium.
After nearly 25 years of operation, the Shippingport nuclear power plant was retired in 1982. This, however, would not signify the end of ground-breaking events linked to the site. The world’s first large-scale nuclear power plant also became the first complete decontamination and decommissioning of a nuclear power reactor carried out in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy was charged with the clean-up task. Five years later, in 1987, the site at Shippingport was declared safe enough for unrestricted use.