NEW YORK—The nuclear energy industry posted another year of record-high operating performance in 2002, underscoring the crucial role that nuclear power plants play in the nation’s diverse portfolio of energy sources, industry executives told Wall Street financial analysts today.
Although final performance figures are not yet available, preliminary estimates for 2002 show that the nation’s 103 nuclear power plants set an electricity production record for the fourth straight year, increasing their output 1-2 percent to about 778 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh). Nuclear power generation in 2001 was 769 billion kwh.
The plants’ average capacity factor—a measure of efficiency—reached a record high for the fifth straight year, climbing to about 91.5 percent in 2002.
“By any measure—reliability, productivity, safety, economics—the nuclear energy sector has achieved major gains in recent years,” said Don Hintz, president of Entergy Corp. and chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) board of directors. “We’ve achieved these results by concentrating on safety, by continuing to share the best operating practices across the industry, and by further sharpening our management skills.”
Since 1990, the industry’s sustained excellence in operating performance has enabled the nation’s reactors to increase electricity production equivalent to what 25 new reactors would add to the electricity grid, NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Joe F. Colvin said.
“In just the last five years, the increase in output is equivalent to 13 new 1,000 megawatt power plants,” Colvin said.
With improved productivity and reliability leading to better economic performance, the average production cost (fuel costs plus operations and maintenance) in 2001 stood at a record low of 1.68 cents/kwh. The average production cost for 2002 likely will set a new record when those figures become available later this year, Colvin said.
Nuclear power plants operating in 31 states provide electricity to one of every five U.S. homes and businesses. They provide about 70 percent of the electricity generated by sources that don’t pollute the air.
Through power uprates, additional productivity gains and the planned restart of the Browns Ferry reactor in Alabama, the industry could increase its generating capacity by another 10,000 megawatts over the next decade, Colvin said.
By offsetting the need for that electricity to come from other sources, including fossil-fueled power plants, this increased output could avoid the emission of the equivalent of 22 million metric tons of carbon over that period. That represents approximately one-fifth of President Bush’s “Clear Skies” carbon reduction goal for 2012, Colvin said.
“The clean air compliance value of nuclear energy is enormous,” Colvin said, noting that there is movement at the federal and state levels toward programs that for the first time would capture the value of avoiding emissions of air pollutants rather than just reducing them.
He told analysts that the nuclear industry continues to place a high priority on plant security. “We take our responsibility for nuclear plant security very seriously, and we take our obligation to protect public health and safety very seriously. This was true before September 11 and remains true today.”
The industry has approximately 7,000 highly trained, well-armed security officers. This is a 35 percent increase in security officer staffing since Sept. 11, 2001. Industrywide, $369 million has been spent on security enhancements since the terrorist attacks.
“The value of nuclear energy remains incredibly strong. Nuclear power plants are providing competitively priced electricity that gives customers stability in future pricing, and they are doing so without polluting the air,” Colvin 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.