Report: 2019 reactor fleet performance sets records

March 6, 2020, 11:44AMNuclear News

In a summary report released to its membership on March 3, the Nuclear Energy Institute lauded the nation’s commercial nuclear industry for reactor performance in 2019, citing “record highs” in electricity generation and capacity factors.

The 98 U.S. nuclear reactors operating in 2019 generated 809.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity, the most since the inception of commercial nuclear power in 1957, according to NEI (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.Electricity generation from U.S. nuclear power plants.

The U.S. fleet achieved a 93.4 percent average capacity factor, the highest ever, NEI said (see Fig. 2), adding that these sustained percentages mean that there is more nuclear-generated electricity today from a smaller number of reactors. For example, in 1989, it would have taken 32 additional reactors compared to 2019 to generate the same amount of electricity.

Fig. 2.Industry-wide capacity factors of the U.S.-widenuclear power plants.

NEI found that in 2019, the average total generating cost for nuclear energy, including fuel, capital, and operations costs, was $30.42 per MWh—a decrease of $2.49/MWh, or 7.6 percent, from the 2018 total generation cost of $32.91/MWh (see Fig. 3).

Fig.31.U.S. nuclear power plants cost trends.

The 2019 amounts used in the report were collected by the Electric Utility Cost Group (EUCG), with cost data from prior years converted to 2019 dollars for accurate historical comparisons. According to NEI, 2019’s total costs are the lowest since EUCG started collecting industry-wide costs in 2002.

More specifically, the 2019 average operations cost was $18.55/MWh, capital cost was $5.72/MWh, and fuel cost was $6.15/MWh. Compared to 2018, operations costs decreased by $1.57/MWh (7.8 percent reduction), capital costs decreased by $0.60/MWh (9.5 percent reduction), and fuel costs decreased by $0.32/MWh (4.9 percent reduction). The latest operations cost is the lowest since EUCG started collecting industry-wide data in 2002, NEI said.

At this writing, the full annual NEI report, Nuclear by the Numbers, was to be published later in March.

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