WASHINGTON—Capped by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval in late December of electric generating capacity increases at four Illinois reactors, the U.S. nuclear energy industry in 2001 achieved its most productive year of power "uprates."
The industry last year was authorized to uprate 20 of the nation's 103 reactors, yielding a combined capacity increase of 1,091 megawatts. An uprate is an increase in generating capacity that is achieved through the installation of more efficient equipment or more accurate instrumentation, or both. Uprates can increase a power plant's capacity to generate electricity by 2 percent to about 20 percent.
Last year's increase is the equivalent of adding a large power plant to the electrical grid. Though final industry uprate costs are not available, the combined capacity increase was achieved at fraction of what the cost of building a new reactor would be. It is common for uprates to cost as little as $10 per kilowatt. Uprates help make nuclear energy even more affordable for consumers by reducing the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour.
"Last year's record uprate numbers are a visible sign for the industry's customers that nuclear power plant operators continually invest in their facilities to ensure that they produce much-needed electricity as efficiently and reliably as possible. Uprates are an example of the economical way that nuclear operators modernize their power plants, which is a major reason that the industry is achieving record-high electricity production at extremely competitive prices," said Ralph Beedle, chief nuclear officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Since 1977 industry uprates have been made at 70 reactors for a combined capacity increase of 3,244 megawatts-the equivalent of approximately one-half of total electric generating capacity in the state of Connecticut.
The four Illinois reactors at which the NRC approved uprates in December are Dresden 2 and 3 and Quad Cities 1 and 2. Uprates also were approved last year at reactors in Tennessee (Watts Bar 1), Illinois (Byron 1 and 2, and Braidwood 1 and 2 ), New Jersey (Salem 1 and 2, and Hope Creek), Pennsylvania (Susquehanna 1 and 2, and Beaver Valley 1 and 2), California (San Onofre 2 and 3), North Carolina (Shearon Harris), and Iowa (Duane Arnold). Uprate submittals for 10 more reactors are pending with the NRC.
The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at http://www.nei.org.