In 1917, the renowned British physicist Ernest Rutherford bombarded light atoms with alpha rays and observed outgoing protons of energy larger than that of the incoming alpha particles. He concluded that the bombardment had converted nitrogen atoms into oxygen atoms. Rutherford thus became the world’s first person to split the atom. Although the first commercial nuclear power plant in the United States—the Shippingport Atomic Power Station—would not supply electricity to the grid until December 1957, Rutherford set the stage for the world’s nuclear power industries in his Manchester laboratory that day one hundred years ago.1 This article discusses the development of the commercial nuclear power industry in the United States, the regulatory impact of the more significant events since its inception, and what the coming years may bring.
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