Concerns about rising electricity demand and clean air are among the factors driving interest in new nuclear plants. Nuclear energy is the only electricity source that can generate electricity 24/7 reliably, efficiently and with no greenhouse gas emissions.
What's Driving Interest in New Nuclear Plants?
Rising Electricity Demand
The U.S. Department of Energy projects that the United States will need 28 percent more electricity by 2040. Worldwide, the International Energy Agency reports that the global surge in the use of consumer electronics such as flat screen TVs, iPods and mobile phones will triple electricity consumption by 2030 to 1,700 terawatt-hours. That is the equivalent of home electricity consumption today in the United States and Japan.
Concern about air pollution is leading to increasingly tight restrictions on emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. The federal government also is considering regulation of emissions of carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas. Nuclear energy accounts for nearly three-quarters of the U.S. electric generation that emits none of these.
The nation’s 100 nuclear power plants operate at high levels of safety, reliability and affordability. Results from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s reactor oversight process, posted on the agency’s Web site, show consistently high safety performance across the industry.
The average capacity factor for nuclear plants—a measure of reliability—has averaged around 90 percent since 2000. In addition, nuclear plants are among the lowest-cost electricity providers, producing electricity for about two cents per kilowatt-hour.
Natural gas fuels nearly all the electric generating capacity built in the past 10 years. The nation has placed unsustainable demand on the natural gas supply, and that means continuing volatility in prices.