WASHINGTON—The nation’s 103 nuclear reactors were the lowest cost electricity producers of any source of expandable, baseload electricity in 2002.
Last year was the fourth straight year that nuclear energy was the low-cost leader for baseload production of electricity. Production costs—which encompass fuel plus operations and maintenance at a plant—averaged 1.71 cents/per kilowatt-hour (kwh) at nuclear power plants in 31 states.
Nuclear power production costs were lower than coal-fired power plants, 1.85 cents/kwh; natural gas plants, 4.06 cents/kwh; and oil-fired plants, 4.41 cents/kwh.
Stable and competitive supplies of low-cost nuclear fuel and efficient power generation at nuclear power plants—a record 780 billion kilowatt-hours—resulted in low production costs in 2002. The average fuel cost for nuclear plants last year was 0.45 cents/kwh, compared to 1.36 cents/kwh for coal and 3.44 cents/kwh for natural gas.
“Nuclear plants continue to demonstrate they have tremendous value in our country’s diverse electricity system,” said Marvin Fertel, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s chief nuclear officer. “The combination of low production costs, high reliability, safe operation and clean air benefits positions nuclear energy favorably to meet our baseload electricity needs today and for future expansion.”
The average capacity factor at nuclear plants climbed to a record high for the fifth straight year at 91.5 percent in 2002. Capacity factor is a measure of efficiency that is the percentage of maximum electricity a plant can supply to the power supply system. Increased efficiency at nuclear power plants has added the equivalent of 26,000 megawatts, or about 26 large power plants, to the electricity grid since 1990.
The excellent performance of U.S. nuclear plants also contributes significantly to the avoidance of air pollutants and carbon that would result from increased emissions from fossil fuel plants. Last year, nuclear plants avoided more than two million tons of nitrogen oxide, four million tons of sulfur dioxide and more than 179 million tons of carbon.
Nuclear power plants supply electricity to one of every five homes and businesses in the United States.
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.