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Nuclear Energy Institute
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Electric Sector Report to DOE Spotlights Nuclear Energy’s Role in Curbing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

WASHINGTON—The nation’s 103 nuclear power plants account for the majority of voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the electric power sector, according to the first annual report of Power Partners, a voluntary partnership between the electric power industry and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Nuclear Energy Institute is among the Power Partners participants.

The electric power sector reported more carbon dioxide reductions than any other reporting sector—63 percent of 445 million metric tons—in 2004, the latest year for which data are available. The electric sector’s progress resulted primarily from increased electricity production at emission-free nuclear power plants, according to the report prepared by the Edison Electric Institute and submitted today to DOE. The data are from the voluntary reporting program administered by the agency.

Nuclear energy accounted for 54 percent of voluntary greenhouse gas reductions reported by project type in the electric power sector by preventing the emission of 142 million metric tons of CO2.

“This report confirms that nuclear energy plays one of the most vital roles in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but cannot do so alone,” said Frank L. “Skip” Bowman, NEI president and chief executive officer. “It’s going to take the combined effort of the entire electric power sector to strike the balance between increased electricity demand and meeting the nation’s environmental goals.”

Other electric power sector reductions came from demand-side management programs, transmission and distribution system upgrades, natural gas plant expansion projects, landfill gas recovery projects and carbon sequestration activities.

The report cites major improvements in nuclear power plant performance in the 1990s as a critical factor in reducing the electric sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The average capacity factor for U.S. nuclear power plants has hovered at or near 90 percent since the start of the decade, while electricity production has risen approximately 16 percent over the past 10 years. The increase in electricity production—from 673 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) in 1995 to 782 billion kwh in 2005—is roughly equivalent to bringing 14 new 1,000 megawatt power plants into service. Capacity factor, a measure of efficiency, is the percentage of the maximum amount of electricity a plant can supply to the power supply system.

The nuclear industry also has boosted production through power uprates at scores of plants. An uprate increases the flow of steam from the nuclear reactor to the turbine generator so the plant can produce more electricity. Uprates can increase a plant’s capacity by 2 percent to 20 percent, depending on plant design.

Since 2000, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorized 66 power uprates, yielding a cumulative capacity increase of almost 2,910 megawatts. The NRC is reviewing six applications for uprates, totaling approximately 581 megawatts of capacity. Over the next five years, the NRC anticipates that companies will apply for power uprates that will add another 1,265 megawatts of new capacity.

Nuclear power plants operating in 31 states produced a record-high 788.5 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity in 2004. Production figures for 2006 are not yet available.

Power Partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DOE in December 2004 that pledged to reduce the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity during the 2010-2012 timeframe by the equivalent of three-to-five percent below the 2000-2002 base-period average. The report states that the electric power industry expects to meet its reduction targets well ahead of schedule.

Beyond the Power Partners reductions achieved through incremental gains in electricity production at nuclear power plants, the total amount of CO2 prevented by U.S. nuclear power plants was 682 million metric tons in 2005. This is equal to the annual emissions from 96 percent of the country’s passenger cars.

“Nuclear power plants play a strategic role in meeting U.S. clean air goals and the nation’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Bowman said. “As our nation looks to meet rapidly growing electricity demand by strengthening conservation and efficiency measures and adding new electric generating capacity, it’s vital that we take full advantage of reliable, affordable nuclear energy and its valuable environmental attributes.”


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