Over the decades of operation, nuclear energy has proven to be one of the lowest-cost and most reliable energy resources integrated into the U.S. electric grid. According to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), nuclear reactors have the lowest forced outage rates among major fuel and technology types, making them one of the most reliable sources of electricity in the country. Additionally, due to their low cost of fuel, nuclear power plants are also one of the cheapest non-renewable generating resources currently operating in the U.S., providing steady around-the-clock (baseload) electricity to countless customers across the country.
Unfortunately, starting with the Shale Gas Revolution of the late 2000s and continued with significant financial support of renewable energy and the resulting fall in construction and operating costs, nuclear energy has come under immense financial pressure. Since 2012, when natural gas prices fell significantly in response to increased domestic production, electric wholesale power prices, in turn, fell as well, eroding the revenue nuclear power plants earn for electricity. Due primarily to these economic factors, 13 nuclear reactors totaling almost 11,000 MW have retired since 2013, whereas another two nuclear reactors are currently announced to retire within the next three years.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve nuclear’s prospects once again, so that it can continue what has been a 50 year trend of nuclear proving to be a reliable and low-cost electricity generating resource. To achieve ambitious decarbonization goals, retain the existing base of plants and expand new nuclear energy resources, we need to address some roadblocks. Reducing or removing these hurdles is the responsibility of many agencies and legislatures on the federal, state, and local levels. Going forward, establishing a more favorable financial and regulatory environment will allow nuclear energy to remain a keystone clean energy resource in a decarbonized U.S. electric grid.
Click here to view the NARUC report, Nuclear Energy as a Keystone Clean Energy Resource, prepared and authored by Phillip Graeter and Deeksha Anand of Energy Ventures Analysis, Inc., under
subcontract to NARUC, August, 2022.