WASHINGTON, D.C.—A newly established world record run at the Three Mile Island (TMI-1) reactor in Pennsylvania is the most recent in a series of achievements that demonstrate the world-class reliability and safety of U.S. nuclear energy facilities.
Ceasing electricity production for refueling on Oct. 26 after 705 days of continuous operation, TMI-1 is the first pressurized water reactor (PWR) power plant in the world to eclipse the 700-day mark for continuous operation.
“We come to work every day with safe and reliable operations as our primary goal,” said William Noll, site vice president at Three Mile Island. “TMI-1’s world-class performance is a tribute to the skill, dedication and teamwork displayed by the people who work here.”
There are more than 200 pressurized water reactors worldwide. This is the second American PWR this year to set a world record for reliable operation. In February, Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs 2 in Maryland set the PWR mark at 692.2 days. Six U.S. boiling water reactors have operated for more than 700 days, including Exelon Corp.’s LaSalle 1 in Illinois setting the world record at 739 days in February 2006.
“The safety and reliability of U.S. nuclear energy facilities is second to none,” said Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute. “The world-class reliability of America’s 104 reactors and an excellent industrial safety record demonstrate that our industry is focused on safety.
“This commitment to safety yields outstanding performance as nuclear power plants are maintained and operated with great precision and care. This performance enables our plants to provide continuous, low-carbon, low-cost electricity to millions upon millions of Americans,” Fertel added.
A growing number of national and individual plant records have been set in 2009, including:
Salem 2 in New Jersey set a new site record of 515 days of continuous electricity production on Oct. 13.
South Texas Project 1 established a U.S. record on Oct. 1 by generating electricity continuously between refueling outages five consecutive times. Many plants complete several “breaker-to-breaker” continuous production runs between outages, but no other nuclear power plant has achieved five in a row since the first U.S. commercial reactor began operations in 1957.
Located in 31 states, 104 commercial reactors produce electricity for one of every five homes and businesses in America. Sixty-nine of the reactors are PWRs; 35 are BWRs. The majority of U.S. nuclear plants operate on an 18-month cycle that enables them to coordinate refueling outages during the fall or spring, when demand for electricity is typically low.
The ability of the plants to operate safely and continuously from one refueling outage to the next has made the nuclear energy the most reliable source of electricity. With an average annual capacity factor of 91.5 percent, nuclear power plants are well ahead of coal (71 percent), natural gas (42 percent), wind (31 percent), hydro (27 percent) and solar (21 percent). A capacity factor is a measure of the actual production of electricity to the theoretical production if the plant operated at full power all of the time.
In 2008, U.S. nuclear plants achieved half of the top 50 capacity factors among the world’s 439 nuclear plants. Calvert Cliffs 2 and Duke Power’s Catawba 2 (the top two performers with capacity factors of 101.37 percent and 101.36 percent respectively) were joined by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah 1 and Entergy Nuclear’s Indian Point 3 in the list of the world’s top 10 performers last year.