Nuclear Power Growing Despite Facility Closures

Nuclear power plant

Despite losing a number of power plants over the last decade, a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates that electricity generated by nuclear power plants increased by approximately 100,000 megawatt hours (MWh) in 2018, reaching a total of 807.1 MWh. A combination of added capacity through upgrades, shorter refueling times, and quicker maintenance cycles are seen as the primary factors allowing these plants to produce more electricity.

The report also showed:

  • The United States currently has 98 nuclear power reactors at 60 plants.
  • Since 2013, a total of seven plants with a combined capacity of 5.3 GW have retired.
  • Two plants—Pilgrim, Massachusetts and Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania—are expected to retire later this year.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power reactor is the only facility to come online since 2010. It provides 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of power.
  • 2.0 GW of thermal power upgrades were realized between 2010 and 2018, nearly the equivalent of adding two new reactors.
  • The combination of upgrades, shorter outage durations, and efficiency improvements contributed to the U.S. collection of nuclear plants seeing its highest capacity factor on record, at 92.6%.
  • Two new reactors are scheduled to come online soon: Georgia's Vogtle Units 3 and 4. They are scheduled to begin power generation in 2021 and 2022, respectively, providing 2.2 GW of additional power.
  • However, with a total of nine plants expected to close by 2021, electricity generation from U.S. nuclear power reactors could fall by as much as 17% by 2025. This loss is expected to be offset by new natural gas, wind, and solar power plants.

Image Credit: Daniel Prudek / Shutterstock.com

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