WASHINGTON—Demonstrating that nuclear power producers are well-poised to help meet the nation’s energy challenges, U.S. nuclear power plants in 2005 posted near-record levels of electricity production and reliability, industry leaders announced here today.
The 103 nuclear plants operating in 31 states produced an estimated 783 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity and posted an average capacity factor – a measure of efficiency – of nearly 90 percent, industry executives said in providing 2005 performance data at a briefing for Wall Street financial analysts.
Last year’s electricity production mark is second only to the 2004 record of 789 billion kwh, and the 89.7 percent capacity factor estimate is the third-highest level ever, just shy of 2004’s record-high of 90.5 percent and the 90.3 percent average capacity factor posted in 2002.
“The safe, reliable operation of 103 reactors represents a significant domestic source of electricity today and a solid business platform from which to launch a new wave of nuclear plant construction in America,” said Anthony F. Earley Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of DTE Energy and chairman of the board of directors of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).
The briefing for Wall Street analysts came just two days after President George W. Bush reiterated in his State of the Union address that “clean, safe nuclear energy” should play a key role in reducing dependence on energy supplies from unstable parts of the world.
NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Frank L. (Skip) Bowman told the Wall Street analysts that excellent operations at nuclear power plants have enabled nuclear energy to maintain its 20 percent share of U.S. electric supply over the past 10 years despite overall growth in electricity demand of more than 25 percent.
The Department of Energy forecasts that U.S. electricity demand will increase another 50 percent by 2030.
“To maintain nuclear energy’s current 20 percent contribution to our diverse electricity portfolio in 2030, we would need to build over 60,000 megawatts of new nuclear capacity, out of a total of over 300,000 megawatts required,” Bowman said. A nuclear power plant typically has a generating capacity of about 1,000 megawatts.
To address the nation’s need for affordable new supplies of electricity, several utility companies are identifying potential new nuclear plant sites and testing new federal licensing processes for advanced-design reactors. Nine companies or consortia are preparing combined construction and operating license applications that could yield orders for as many as 19 new reactors over the next decade.
“Before they commit to construction, the companies developing new nuclear power projects will have a solid knowledge of the capital cost for new nuclear capacity. Those costs appear to be in the range of $1,750 per kilowatt for the first plants and less than $1,500 per kilowatt for the later plants,” Bowman said.
NEI’s analyses show that even a plant built for $2,000 per kilowatt would be able to produce electricity in its first year of operation for about $68 per megawatt-hour, with the price dropping to about $46 per megawatt-hour with the benefits of the 80 percent loan guarantee program or the 1.8 cent per kilowatt-hour production tax credit authorized in the Energy Policy Act enacted last year.
Bowman said that electricity sold into the market at that price would compare favorably to the production costs of other energy sources.
“We are quite confident that new nuclear plants will be competitive,” he said.
Existing nuclear power plants produce power on average at $17 per megawatt-hour, the lowest of any electricity source with the exception of hydroelectric power projects. Nuclear plants provide nearly 75 percent of the electricity that comes from emission-free sources of electricity, including solar, wind and hydroelectric power.
As recognition of nuclear energy’s advantages grows, nuclear energy is garnering record-high levels of support that spans the Administration, congressional Democrats and Republicans and the general public.
“We see astonishing levels of public support,” Bowman said. “Our most recent national survey showed that 70 percent of Americans support nuclear energy, the highest level since we started tracking public opinion in the early 1980s.”
An industry priority is to ensure that the federal government’s used fuel management program continues to advance.
“The Bush Administration remains fully committed to moving forward” with development of a geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev., Bowman said.
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.