WASHINGTON—U.S. nuclear power plants posted all-time record highs in electricity production and efficiency in 2007, according to preliminary figures released today by the Nuclear Energy Institute. U.S. nuclear plants generated approximately 807 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity last year, exceeding by more than two percent the previous record-high of 788.5 billion kwh of electricity set in 2004.
The 104 nuclear plants operating in 31 states also achieved a record-setting average capacity factor—a measure of on-line availability of power. The 2007 average of 91.8 percent surpassed the 2004 record of 90.1 percent, according to preliminary figures. Capacity factor is the ratio of electricity actually produced compared to the theoretical maximum electricity a power plant can produce operating at full power year-round.
The industry’s average electricity production cost—encompassing expenses for uranium fuel and operations and maintenance—also set a record low last year. The average production cost was 1.68 cents/kwh in 2007, besting the previous low of 1.72 cents/kwh set in 2005, according to preliminary data.
Attesting to the affordability of nuclear energy, 2007 marked the ninth straight year that the industry’s average electricity production cost has been below two cents/kwh, and the seventh straight year that nuclear plants have had the lowest production costs of any major source of electricity, including coal- and natural gas-fired power plants.
“The accomplishments of the nation’s nuclear power plants in 2007 are the equal of a baseball player winning the triple crown,” said Frank L. (Skip) Bowman, NEI president and chief executive officer. “At a time when consumers are confronted with rising oil and gas prices and an increased reliance on foreign energy sources, nuclear energy provides reliable, affordable and clean electricity. Nuclear energy emits no greenhouse gases during the production of electricity, and it is available today to meet rising electricity demand and fight global warming.
“The 2007 performance reflects our industry’s commitment to safety and operating excellence. These levels of electricity production and efficiency could not and would not be sustained if our facilities were not operating at superior levels of safety. The dedicated people who work in all segments of our industry are to be commended,” Bowman said.
Nuclear energy supplies electricity to one of every five homes and businesses. About one-third of U.S. electricity production is generated by carbon-free sources, and nuclear energy supplies more than 70 percent of that clean electricity.
Electricity production from nuclear power plants was bolstered by the refurbishment of Browns Ferry 1 in Athens, Ala., which was returned to service in May 2007. Tennessee Valley Authority completed the project within the five-year schedule at a cost of about $1.8 billion. The 1,155-megawatt reactor alone produces enough electricity to serve 650,000 homes. The industry also implemented plant “uprates,” or power production capacity increases, at two plants—a 55-megawatt increase at Browns Ferry 1 and a 13.7-megawatt increase at Progress Energy’s Crystal River 3 reactor in Florida.
Bowman said the industry’s 2007 performance further buttresses arguments for the nation to increase its use of nuclear energy to help achieve energy independence and strengthen U.S. energy security.
“The case for building a new generation of advanced-design nuclear plants to help meet our nation’s future energy needs is a powerful one,” Bowman said.
Final figures on the industry’s 2007 performance are expected this spring.