NEW YORK—Invigorated by another year of record operating performance, the U.S. nuclear energy industry believes its prospects for future growth are as good or better than ever, industry executives told Wall Street financial analysts today.
Although final performance figures are not yet available, preliminary estimates for 2001 show that the nation’s 103 nuclear power plants set an electricity production record for the third straight year, increasing their output 1-2 percent to about 762 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh). The plants’ average capacity factor—a measure of efficiency—reached a record high for the fourth straight year, climbing 1 percent to approximately 91 percent in 2001.
"The outstanding performance achieved in recent years by the highly skilled men and women throughout our industry clearly is sustainable," Nuclear Energy Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Colvin said at a briefing at the Drake Swissotel.
"Given the record output and reliability, it is no surprise that the cost of electricity produced at nuclear power plants continues to drop. Average production costs in 2000 were 1.74 cents per kilowatt-hour, and total cost, including capital costs, was about 2.25 cents per kilowatt-hour—the envy of other electricity sources."
Beyond their ability to reliably produce large amounts of competitively priced electricity, nuclear power plants have several other desirable, valuable attributes, Colvin said.
"Nuclear power plants provide a high degree of forward price stability, an attribute with significant value in a volatile commodity market. Nuclear plants also have clean-air compliance value. As an industry, we are working to capture the monetary value of this attribute."
With support from the Bush Administration and nuclear-related provisions included in major energy bills introduced by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, nuclear energy is receiving strong bipartisan political support, Colvin said.
"The political leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue clearly recognizes that nuclear power plants provide more than safe, reliable, low-cost electricity. They recognize that these plants are a valuable strategic asset. They enhance our energy security. They contribute to the fuel and technology diversity that is the bedrock strength of our electricity supply system. And, with the smallest environmental ‘footprint’ of any source of bulk electricity, they are essential to meeting the nation’s environmental goals," Colvin said.
He noted that nearly one-half of the 103 reactors operating in 31 states either have received 20-year license extensions, have license renewal applications pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or are preparing to submit license renewal applications within the next five years.
"We also are continuing to work on creating the right business conditions for the next wave of nuclear power plant construction in the United States," he said. "This is a multi-year effort and involves a lot of preparatory work. Our goal is simple: to ensure that energy companies have a menu of competitive options from which to choose when the time for new nuclear construction is right."
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.