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U.S. Nuclear Generation Reaches Record Levels

Nuclear

Despite the fact that several nuclear power plants have closed since 2010, last year’s U.S. nuclear electricity generation beat the previous record from 2010, as some plants commissioned uprates to boost generation capacity while facilities overall reduced the time for maintenance or refueling, the EIA said in its preliminary 2018 generation data.

In 2018, U.S. electricity generation from nuclear power totaled 807.1 million megawatthours (MWh), slightly more than the previous peak of 807.0 million MWh in 2010, the EIA’s preliminary annual data showed.

“The combination of uprates, shorter outage durations, and balance-of-plant thermal efficiency improvements led the U.S. nuclear power fleet in 2018 to see its highest capacity factor on record, at 92.6%,” the EIA said.

However, the 2018 record in nuclear electricity generation is unlikely to be beaten in the coming decades, because only two reactors are expected to come online in the near future, Georgia’s Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The new capacity from those two reactors will not be able to offset the closings of 12 reactors by 2025, based on the currently announced retirements, the EIA said. Related: Disney Beats Out Comcast In $71.3B Mega-Merger

Between 2010 and 2018, only one new nuclear plant came online—the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power reactor with 1.2 GW capacity, while seven nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 5.3 GW retired between 2013 and 2018.

Last year, nuclear electricity generation accounted for 19.3 percent of all U.S. utility-scale power generation, preceded by natural gas with 35.1 percent and coal with 27.4 percent, and followed by renewables including hydropower with 17.1 percent, EIA data shows.  

While wind, natural gas, and solar capacity will lead the new electricity capacity in the United States this year, coal-fired generation will account for more than half of scheduled capacity retirements, followed by natural gas with 27 percent, and nuclear with 18 percent, the EIA said in its inventory of electric generators in January.

This year, two nuclear plants totaling 1.5 GW are currently scheduled to retire—the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts in May, and the remaining unit at the Three Mile Island Power Station in Pennsylvania in September.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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