According to latest reports by the Nuclear Energy Institute, U.S. nuclear energy plants generated electricity at a record high level of efficiency in 2014. Despite anti – nuclear slogans that cropped up after the Fukshima nuclear disaster in Japan, the figures demonstrate the value of nuclear energy in terms of reliability and stability of the electric grid and to the nation’s economy.
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One hundred nuclear power plants that operate across 31 states in the US have posted an estimated average capacity factor of 91.9 percent, based on preliminary 2014 data compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute. That surpasses the industry’s prior record set in 2007 by one-tenth of a percentage point. Capacity factor measures total electricity generated as a percentage of year-round potential generation.
Actual electricity production from nuclear energy facilities last year was the sixth-highest ever, at an estimated 798.4 billion KWH. The industry’s record high electricity generation came in 2010, when the 104 reactors then operating produced 806.9 billion KWH of electricity while posting an industry average capacity factor of 90.9 percent.
The 2014 numbers point toward the importance of well-performing nuclear energy to America’s energy security, the overall economy and the quality of life.
During periods of extreme weather, nuclear energy facilities’ value is even greater. For example, at the height of the arctic blast that chilled the eastern United States on Jan. 8, nuclear power plants met significant portions of the electric demand load in their respective markets at levels well above their installed generating capacity. In the densely populated PJM market encompassing the mid-Atlantic region and large portions of the Midwest, PJM’s nuclear power plants provided about 27 percent of the region’s early afternoon electricity demand, even though they constitute only about 19 percent of the region’s installed electric generating capacity.
U.S. nuclear energy facilities for the past two decades have annually produced about one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies, even as total electricity demand has increased significantly. Because of their sector-leading capacity factors they have done so even though nuclear power plants constitute only about 10 percent of the nation’s installed electric generating capacity.
Power Generation Market Share
Source: Grand View Research