Some Characteristics of Different Nuclear Reactor Designs

ItemNuclear Reactor
Fuel loading1,000s of kg10s to 100s of kg10s of kg
Fuel enrichmentNatural uranium to 8%30 to >90%20 to >90%
Power productionA few 100 to >1,000 MW10s to a few 100 MW<1 to 100 MW
Reactor coolantWater, pressurized or boiling; liquid metal; gas; liquid saltWater, pressurizedWater, unpressurized
Source: Management of Persons Contaminated with Radionuclides: Scientific and Technical Bases (NCRP Report No. 161, Volume II, Table 17.2, page 402), Bethesda, MD, 2010; Reprinted with permission of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, (

Types of reactors (NRC)

  • The NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants that generate electricity.
  • There are several types of nuclear power reactors.
  • Of these, only the Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) are in commercial operation in the United States.
  • See list below to view a description and diagram of each.