WASHINGTON—The nation’s nuclear power plants remained at the zenith of efficiency levels in 2007 with a median unit capability factor for 104 reactors in 31 states hitting 91.5 percent. For the eighth consecutive year, unit capability factor—a plant’s ability to stay on-line and produce electricity—topped 90 percent, according to performance indicators compiled by the World Association of Nuclear Operators.
A related metric, capacity factor, a measure of total power generated as a percentage of design production, was a record high 91.8 percent in 2007. This record capacity factor, along with other sector-leading nuclear industry indicators, led to U.S. nuclear power plants producing a record-high 806 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity in 2007.
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 2007 performance indicators unquestionably demonstrate that the nuclear industry’s commitment to safety and efficient operations is resolute and the foundation for the production of reliable, affordable and clean electricity,” said Frank L. (Skip) Bowman, NEI president and chief executive officer. “The performance of the existing plants is providing the confidence for building new reactors, witness the nine license applications filed to date with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
The performance data compiled by WANO is analyzed by the Atlanta-based Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), 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 2007 include:
Unplanned Automatic Reactor Shutdowns. The 2007 median industry value of 0.41 unplanned automatic shutdowns per plant set a record low 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 10th straight year, 96 percent or more of key safety systems met industry goals for availability. In 2007, 97 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 2007 median value of 1.4 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. 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 industry’s 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 2007 with only 0.12 industrial accidents per 200,000 worker-hours. This matches the record low rate of the previous year. Statistics from other industries through 2006, 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.