The architectural giants are as beautiful as they are ominous.

Nuclear energy is essential to the United Kingdom -- in 2012, it accounted for nearly a fifth of the nation's electricity (down from a high of 26 percent in 1997). But the plants that supply much of that power are slowly being phased out.

The UK's first commercial nuclear power plant came online in 1956 (it closed in 2003); others soon followed. There are nine currently in operation, all but one have been used since the 1980s. Three were 'born' in the 70s. 

The country is looking to build new, privatized facilities; and it'll likely rely on investors from countries like China to foot part of the bill. According to the BBC, a new $22.5 billion facility could be announced as soon as next week, the first new plant built in the UK since 1995.

Reuters photographer Suzanne Plunkett traveled across Britain to find the current nuclear plants, shooting each one. The results offer a fascinating glimpse at how these massive facilities, often devoid of any architectural personality, fit onto a landscape of rolling hills, quiet beaches, grazing animals, and charming homes. 

A house is seen in front of Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England April 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Holiday caravans are seen near Heysham nuclear power station in northwest England April 23, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
A man gets on a bus near Hartlepool nuclear power station in Seaton Carew, northeast England December 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Wind turbines are seen behind Hunterston nuclear power station in West Kilbride, Scotland May 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
A woman walks her dog outside outside Sizewell B nuclear power station in Suffolk, southeast England April 10, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
Sheep stand on a hill across the bay from Wylfa nuclear power station in Cemaes, northern Wales February 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
Horses are seen outside at Hartlepool nuclear power station just outside Seaton Carew, northeast England December 27, 2012. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Birdwatchers Malcolm McVail (L) and Barry Woolhouse look through their binoculars outside Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England April 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Hinkley Point nuclear power station is seen behind rocks on a beach in Bridgwater, southwest England February 21, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
A shingle beach is seen outside Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England December 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Seaweed covers rocks in Morecambe Bay outside Heysham nuclear power station in northwest England April 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Water outflow from Heysham nuclear power station rushes into Morecambe Bay in northwest England April 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
A miniature steam train drives past Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England April 30, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)
Eglwys Llanbadrig Church is seen near Wylfa nuclear power station in Cemaes, northern Wales February 22, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Hunterston nuclear power station is reflected in a marsh in West Kilbride, Scotland May 15, 2013. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 
Car lights stream past a home near Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England December 4, 2012. (REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett) 

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