WASHINGTON, D.C.—The nation’s nuclear power plants last year operated at the high efficiency levels that have cemented their role as the nation’s most reliable electricity source, and they did so while plant employees demonstrated a continued commitment to safety and operational excellence. Performance indicators compiled by the World Association of Nuclear Operators reflect the industry’s continued high levels of performance in 2008.
WANO found that the U.S. nuclear industry’s median unit capability factor in 2008 was 91.1 percent. That is the ninth consecutive year that unit capability factor— a measure of a plant’s on-line production time—topped 91 percent. A related metric, capacity factor, a measure of total power generated as a percentage of design production, also stood at 91.1 percent in 2008, according to preliminary data compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
This electric industry-leading reliability enabled the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants to produce approximately 805.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity last year. Overall, nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies; they provide nearly 75 percent of the nation’s electricity generation that comes from carbon-free sources, including hydroelectric power plants and renewable technologies.
Proving the nexus between excellent safety and operating performance, the U.S. nuclear industry sustained high levels of achievement in safety performance, industrial safety, unplanned automatic reactor shutdowns and programs to protect workers from radiation exposure.
“The excellent operating and safety performance reflected in these indicators demonstrates that the nuclear energy industry and the thousands of dedicated men and women who work at our energy facilities have an unwavering commitment to safety,” said Marvin Fertel, NEI president and chief executive officer.
“Safe, reliable operation drives public and political confidence in the industry, and provides a solid platform for license renewal of existing power plants and construction of advanced-design reactors,” Fertel said.
The performance data compiled by WANO is analyzed by the Atlanta-based Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, which promotes excellence in U.S. nuclear power plant safety and operations. INPO uses the data to help set challenging benchmarks of excellence against which safety and plant operation can be measured. Other highlights of the nuclear energy industry’s performance in 2008 include:
Unplanned Automatic Reactor Shutdowns. The 2008 median industry value of 0.41 unplanned automatic shutdowns per plant equaled the record low set in 2007 and was 18 percent better than the 2010 median goal of 0.5 unplanned shutdowns per 7,000 hours of reactor operation.
Safety System Performance. For the 11th straight year, 96 percent or more of key safety systems met industry goals for availability. In 2008, 96 percent of the key safety systems met their availability goals. Nuclear power plants are built with redundant safety systems and backup power supplies so these systems are available, if needed, even when maintenance is being performed on a similar system or component. The three key standby safety systems are two main cooling systems and back-up power supplies used to respond in the event of unusual situations.
Forced Capability Loss Rate. The 2008 median value of 1.3 percent capability loss reflects consistent excellent performance in nuclear plant operations since 2000. In the mid-1990s, the median value exceeded five percent; but has been under two percent each year since 2000 and under 1.5 percent for four consecutive years. Forced capability loss rate measures a plant’s outage time and power reductions that result from unplanned equipment failures, human error or other conditions when the plant is expected to be generating electricity. The 2010 goal for this indicator is a median value of one percent.
Industrial Safety. The nuclear industry is one of the nation’s safest working environments. U.S. nuclear plants continued to post a low industrial accident rate in 2008 with only 0.13 industrial accidents per 200,000 worker-hours. Statistics from other industries through 2007, as compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that it is safer to work at a nuclear power plant than in the manufacturing sector and even the real estate and financial sectors.
To view charts of the WANO performance indicators for U.S. nuclear power plants on NEI’s Web site, go to: http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/safetyandsecurity/reports/wanoperformanceindicators_08.