U.S. nuclear power generation at record high despite shutdowns

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Despite several nuclear power plants shutting down since 2010, nuclear power generation in the United States last year broke the previous record set in 2010, with some plants commissioning power boosts to increase generating capacity while facilities overall reduced maintenance or refueling time, the EIA noted in its 2018 generation preliminary data.

In 2018, nuclear power generation in the United States totaled 807.1 million megawatt hours (MWh), slightly above the previous peak of 807.0 million MWh in 2010, according to preliminary annual data from the ‘EIA.

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

However, the 2018 nuclear power generation record is unlikely to be broken in the coming decades as only two reactors are expected to come online in the near future, Georgia’s Vogtle 3 and 4 units in 2021 and 2022 , respectively. The new capacity of these two reactors will not be able to compensate for the shutdowns of 12 reactors by 2025, based on the withdrawals currently announced, the EIA said.

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Between 2010 and 2018, only one new nuclear power plant was commissioned – the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear reactor with a capacity of 1.2 GW, while seven nuclear power plants with a capacity combined 5.3 GW were withdrawn between 2013 and 2018.

Last year, nuclear power generation accounted for 19.3% of all utility-scale power generation in the United States, preceded by natural gas with 35.1% and coal with 27.4%, and followed by renewable energies, including hydroelectricity, with 17.1%. EIA data shows.

While wind, natural gas, and solar capacity will lead new electric capacity in the United States this year, coal generation will account for more than half of planned capacity retirements, followed by natural gas at 27% and nuclear with 18%. , EIA noted in its inventory of electric generators in January.

This year, two nuclear power plants totaling 1.5 GW are currently scheduled to be taken out of service: the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts in May and the remaining unit of the Three Mile Island power plant in Pennsylvania in September.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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