U.S. nuclear capacity factors: A smaller fleet invested in the future

May 13, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

The United States has just 93 operating power reactors at this writing. The fleet last numbered 93 in 1985, when nuclear generation topped out at 383.69 TWh, less than half of the 778.2 TWh produced in 2021.

While the 93 reactors operating today have more capacity, on average, than in 1985, most of that increased productivity is down to operational improvements that pushed the fleet’s average capacity factor from just 57.5 percent in the three-year period 1984–1986 to near 90 percent by the early 2000s.

Exelon split completed; Constellation launched

February 2, 2022, 3:00PMNuclear News

Constellation, formerly Exelon Generation, owner and operator of the nation’s largest nuclear reactor fleet, announced this morning the completion of its separation from Exelon Corporation and its launch as a stand-alone, publicly traded company. Headquartered in Baltimore, Md., the new company began trading today on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “CEG.”

Exelon announced last February that it had begun the effort to separate its utility businesses from its competitive power generation and customer-facing energy businesses.

Predictions: What lies ahead for nuclear in 2022

January 21, 2022, 3:26PMNuclear News

As we begin a new year, it is natural not only to look back (see page 24 for top news stories of 2021) but also to look forward. Nuclear News reached out to leaders in the nuclear community to get their predictions on what 2022 has in store, whether broadly or for their specific areas within the community. Although the responses below are wide-ranging and varied, one thing is made clear by all of the respondents: 2022 will see growth and opportunity. The future for nuclear is bright.

Exelon Generation shares plans for future as Constellation

January 12, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Exelon Generation—owner and operator of the nation’s largest power reactor fleet—held an online event yesterday outlining the company’s business strategy as it prepares to separate from Exelon Corporation under the name Constellation. The separation is expected to become final on February 1.

Granholm promotes nuclear and Build Back Better

December 14, 2021, 7:32AMNuclear News
Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm tours the Braidwood control room on December 9. (Photo: Exelon)

Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm toured the Braidwood nuclear plant in Illinois last week as part of a statewide tour to promote the climate provisions in the recently passed trillion-dollar infrastructure law and the Build Back Better Act, over which the Senate continues to haggle.

Getting INL to net-zero carbon emissions by 2031

December 13, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear CafeDonna Kemp Spangler


Daunting tasks are nothing new for Jhansi Kandasamy. Her record of accomplishments over three decades suggests that she is often the first to succeed where others fall short. “I like to be the first,” she said with a laugh.

Her latest first? Kandasamy was recently named Idaho National Laboratory’s net-zero director. She is charged with achieving net-zero carbon emissions for INL within the next 10 years and her plan is to be 75 percent toward that goal within the next five years.

John Wagner, INL director, announced the Net-Zero initiative on Earth Day 2021, and he acknowledged it won’t be easy. “I understand this is an audacious goal,” he said, “but overcoming significant national challenges is exactly what national laboratories were established to do.”

NRC okays license transfers for Exelon plants

November 18, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the indirect transfer of the licenses for 23 operating and five decommissioning reactors, as well as their associated independent spent fuel storage installations, from Exelon Corporation to a new company as part of a corporate restructuring, the agency announced yesterday.

Exelon to Congress: Pass infrastructure and Build Back Better bills

November 4, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News


Exelon, owner and operator of the nation’s largest nuclear reactor fleet, has made clear its position on the massive infrastructure and social spending bills that federal lawmakers, at this writing, continue to haggle over.

“As world leaders convene in Glasgow for COP26 to address the climate crisis, the need for America to take action has never been more urgent,” said Chris Crane, Exelon’s president and chief executive officer, on Monday. “The bipartisan infrastructure agreement and the policy framework for Build Back Better legislation will make us more competitive globally, spur innovation and support good-paying jobs, protect current and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change, and cement America’s leadership on one of the most pressing challenges—and opportunities—of our time. The time to act is now, and we encourage lawmakers to pass these critical policies into law.”

Michelle Zietlow-Miller: The ins and outs of outage management

October 8, 2021, 3:42PMNuclear NewsMichael McQueen

Michelle Zietlow-Miller

Michelle Zietlow-­Miller, outage manager at Exelon’s Quad Cities plant, had no particular interest in nuclear while growing up in the (very) small town of Great Bend, N.D. She was, however, good at math and science, and taking her mother’s advice to pursue a career in engineering, she earned a degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University in December 2004.

At the time, one of her dream jobs was to work as a chemical engineer for Budweiser. (“Making beer is a chemical process that involves fermentation,” Zietlow-­Miller explains. “Chemical engineers are hired as process engineers to oversee the fermentation and bottling processes.”) Alas, the King of Beers was not in her future. Instead, Exelon came calling, and in January 2005, she began a career in the nuclear industry as a systems engineer at Quad Cities, located in northwestern Illinois. She’s been at the two-­unit boiling water reactor facility ever since, but in a variety of roles.

Zietlow-­Miller recently spoke about her career and outage management strategies and challenges with Nuclear News staff writer Michael McQueen.

Palo Verde gets $20 million to make hydrogen while the sun shines

October 8, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
APS’s Palo Verde plant

Arizona Public Service is the latest nuclear utility with confirmed plans to install hydrogen production capacity, an investment decision that is based on analysis conducted under the Department of Energy’s H2@Scale program and backed by a $20 million DOE award.

Byron, Dresden to receive nine-digit investments

September 30, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Workers perform maintenance during Byron’s refueling outage. (Photo: Exelon)

Exelon Generation announced yesterday that it is investing more than $300 million in capital projects at its Byron and Dresden nuclear plants in Illinois over the next five years and filling some 650 vacant positions across the state.

These actions are in response to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s recent signing of S.B. 2408, the hard-won legislation that rescued the nuclear facilities from premature retirement.

Keep nuclear generation at current levels, says Pennsylvania climate plan

September 29, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Action Plan recommends 18 “strategies” for realizing Gov. Tom Wolf’s goal of an 80 percent reduction in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2050. Two of the strategies are for the electricity-generation sector: (1) maintain operation at Pennsylvania’s nuclear power plants through at least 2050, and (2) achieve a 100 percent carbon-free grid by 2050.

In addition to focusing on electric power generation, the plan includes strategies for other major carbon-emitting sectors in the fossil fuel–heavy state, including transportation, industry, agriculture, and residential and commercial buildings. For each strategy, emission reductions, costs, and benefits in jobs and economic growth are quantified and health and social benefits analyzed.

Three Studies in Site Remediation

September 21, 2021, 12:00PMRadwaste SolutionsJeremy Kartchner

For any nuclear power plant that has been permanently shut down, site restoration is the ultimate decommissioning goal when contracting with a utility to demolish a facility. The task, however, is not as simple as mobilizing heavy equipment and waving a wrecking ball or planting explosives to implode the facility, then loading up the debris and sending it to a landfill.

There is a real science and engineering approach necessary to safely restore the land to its original state. That has been the goal for EnergySolutions over the past decade as the company works to safely decommission shuttered nuclear power plants—packaging, transporting, and disposing of the waste, and restoring the sites for whatever reuse the owners and host communities see fit.

Illinois governor signs energy bill aiding nuclear plants

September 16, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker appreciates applause at the signing event for the state's new energy bill.

In an hour-long ceremony held yesterday at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium amid some fanfare (it included an appearance by lizards, a snake, and a penguin), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (S.B. 2408). The bill is a sweeping overhaul of the state’s energy policies aimed at phasing out fossil-fuel power generation and placing Illinois on a path to become a 100 percent carbon-free energy producer by 2050.

Bill to preserve Illinois nuclear passes legislature

September 14, 2021, 7:03AMNuclear News
The Byron (left) and Dresden generating stations.

The yearlong, nail-biting drama over the fate of Exelon’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants came to an end on Monday afternoon when the Illinois Senate gave its nod to S.B. 2408, a wide-ranging clean energy package that seeks to phase out fossil-fuel power generation in the state and place it on a path to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.

The American Nuclear Society applauds passage of Illinois clean energy legislation

September 13, 2021, 2:43PMPress Releases

"The American Nuclear Society welcomes passage of legislation to secure Illinois' clean energy future by preventing the slated premature closures of Bryon and Dresden nuclear power plants. Over 4.3 gigawatts of irreplaceable carbon-free nuclear power and more than 1,500 jobs at the nuclear power plants have been saved.

ANS calls on nuclear community in fight to save Byron and Dresden

September 3, 2021, 12:12PMANS News
The Byron (left) and Dresden generating stations.

Exelon’s Byron nuclear plant will be permanently shuttered in 10 days unless the Illinois House of Representatives passes the clean energy bill approved by the state’s Senate on September 1. And as the lower chamber is expected to convene for a special session sometime next week to consider the measure, ANS is encouraging members of Illinois’s nuclear community to make their position on the matter clear via ANS engage.

Hope still alive for Byron, Dresden plants

September 1, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Dresden nuclear power plant

With essentially no time to spare, the Illinois Senate early this morning passed a clean energy omnibus package that includes $694 million in assistance to three of the state’s financially troubled nuclear plants: Braidwood, Byron, and Dresden. The vote was 39–16. (Both the Senate and House had returned to the capital on Tuesday for a one-day special session to consider legislative redistricting.)