President's Column

The cost of unreliability

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

In the September issue of Nuclear News, I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. In that column and in August’s, I provided some information about the cleanliness and safety of nuclear for your use as you make the case for this clean energy source to friends and neighbors. This month, let’s talk reliability.

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EIA: Nine of top 10 electricity generators in 2019 were nuclear plants

Graph: EIA

Of the 10 U.S. power plants that generated the most electricity in 2019, nine were nuclear plants, a recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration states.

These 10 facilities produced a combined 230 million megawatt hours of electricity last year, accounting for 5.6 percent of all electricity generation in the United States, according to the report. The report also notes a shift in the makeup of the top plants over the past 10 years, from a mix of nuclear and coal-fired generators in 2010 to nearly all nuclear in 2019.

Coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation dropped from 45 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019, the reports says. Stricter air emission standards and decreased cost competitiveness relative to other generators are given as the key reasons for coal’s decade of decline.

Agencies sign MOU to strengthen U.S. uranium mining industry

Kristine Svinicki, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, have signed a memorandum of understanding to improve coordination and cooperation in the regulation of the in situ recovery (ISR) process of uranium extraction and to support the goal of establishing a stronger U.S. uranium mining industry.

EIA Report: Nuclear generation to drop 8 percent by 2050

The U.S. Energy Information Administration is projecting that U.S. electricity generation from nuclear power will most likely decline from its 2019 share of about 20 percent to 12 percent by 2050. In addition, the agency sees generation from coal declining by 11 percent, from 24 percent to 13 percent.

According to the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2020, released in late January, nuclear and coal will experience a substantial falloff over the next few years—the result of slow load growth and the increasing electricity production from renewables, which is expected to grow from 19 percent to 38 percent over the next 30 years—but will then plateau to collectively provide about 25 percent of the nation’s electricity through the century’s midpoint.