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Fossil-fueled Power
Non-Fossil Generation
End-Use Efficiency
Electricity T&D
Carbon Sequestration
Non-CO2 Reductions
Other GHG Reductions

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Nuclear Energy
Wind Power
Solar Thermal Elec.
Biomass Power
Photovoltaics
Geothermal Energy
Hydropower
Pumped Storage
Waste-to-Energy
Green Pricing
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 Nuclear Energy

 
 Background


Nuclear energy is the nation’s third largest source of electricity – behind coal and natural gas – and serves one of every five homes and businesses. Importantly, nuclear energy accounts for nearly 75 percent of all U.S. emission-free electric generation. In the U.S. Department of Energy’s §1605(b) program for greenhouse gas emissions reporting, nuclear power plants are responsible for the largest reduction of carbon.

The performance of U.S. nuclear power plants improved dramatically during the 1990s. The average capacity factor of U.S. nuclear plants was more than 90 percent in 2007. The increase in output from U.S. nuclear plants in the last 10 years — from 673 billion kWh in 1995 to 806 billion kWh in 2007 — is roughly equivalent to bringing 17 new 1,000-MW power plants (operating at a 90-percent capacity factor) into service. This improved performance has made a substantial contribution to reducing the electric sector’s GHG emissions. In fact, according to EIA’s Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Program (§1605(b) data), nuclear power-related projects accounted for nearly 142 million metric tons of CO2 reductions in 2004, or about 54 percent of the electric power sector’s total reductions in that year.

Individual utilities have undertaken numerous activities to improve performance and increase electricity generation from nuclear power plants. During the last two years, about 715 MW of power uprates have been approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), while more than 3,600 MW have been approved since 2000. As shown in the figure below, from the January 2007 Power Partners Annual Report, an additional 2,300 MW of uprates are either under review or expected by 2013. The restart of TVA’s Brown’s Ferry Unit 1 in May 2007 added an additional 1,200 MW to the grid.

 

In addition to uprates, nuclear plant owners continue to pursue 20-year license renewals. Since 2000, the NRC has approved license renewals for 48 nuclear reactors. To date, the owners of 95 nuclear units have decided to pursue license renewals, and more are expected to follow suit.

In recent months, many utilities and power generators have begun to explore the possibility of licensing and building new nuclear plants. Seventeen companies or consortia are developing applications for joint construction/operating licenses (COLs) and intend to file those applications with the NRC in the next few years. Those applications could encompass as many as 31 new nuclear reactors, and represent approximately 40,000 MW of new non-emitting capacity.

 

Company/Site

Design &
# of Reactors

COL Submittal

Running Total:
# New Reactors

1

NRG Energy – STPNOC/South Texas Project

ABWR (2)

September 2007

2

2

TVA/Bellefonte

AP1000 (2)

October 2007

4

3

Dominion/North Anna

ESBWR (1)

November 2007

5

4

Duke/William States Lee

AP1000 (2)

December 2007

7

5

Entergy/Grand Gulf

ESBWR (1)

February 2008

8

6

Progress Energy/Harris

AP1000 (2)

February 2008

10

7

Constellation-Unistar/Calvert Cliffs

EPR (1)

March 2008

11

8

Southern Company/Vogtle

AP1000 (2)

March 2008

13

9

South Carolina Electric & Gas/V.C. Summer

AP1000 (2)

March 2008

15

10

Ameren UE/Callaway

EPR (1)

July 2008

16

11

Progress Energy/Levy County

AP1000 (2)

July 2008

18

12

Exelon/Victoria County, TX

ESBWR (2)

September 2008

20

Within the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) leads the DOE investment in the development and exploration of advanced nuclear science and technology. NE leads the Government’s efforts to develop new nuclear energy generation technologies; to develop advanced, proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel technologies that maximize energy from nuclear fuel; and to maintain and enhance the national nuclear technology infrastructure.  The programs funded by the Office of Nuclear Energy have the following two Program Goals:

Develop new nuclear generation technologies - that foster the diversity of the domestic energy supply through public-private partnerships that are aimed in the near-term (2015) at the deployment of advanced, proliferation-resistant light water reactor and fuel cycle technologies and in the longer-term (2025) at the development and deployment of next-generation advanced reactors and fuel cycles.

  Maintain, enhance, and safeguard the Nation’s nuclear infrastructure capability - to meet the Nation’s energy, environmental, medical research, space exploration, and national security needs.

Industry also is actively participating in domestic and international partnerships to further the development of next-generation nuclear technologies. Examples include:

Nuclear Power 2010 (NP2010): A joint government‑industry cost-sharing effort to identify new sites for nuclear reactors, to develop and bring to market new nuclear plant technologies, and to demonstrate untested regulatory processes.
 
Global Nuclear Energy Partnership: Partners the United States with other advanced nuclear nations to develop a transparent fuel market and spent nuclear fuel recycling technology while reducing nuclear proliferation risks.
 
  Generation IV: An international initiative to develop six next-generation reactors designed to be safer, more reliable, more cost effective, and more proliferation resistant than today’s current technologies.
 
  ITER: An international research and development project that aims to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion power.

In 2002, to reduce regulatory uncertainty, the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced a cost-sharing program — Nuclear Power 2010 — to test and demonstrate the new NRC regulatory process (10CFR Part 52). The new three-part licensing process requires design and siting decisions and other key approvals before construction of a nuclear plant begins. Included in the NP2010 program are projects to complete and submit three Early Site Permit (ESP) applications and a number of combined Construction and Operating License (COL) applications.

The Early Site Permit allows a utility to "bank" an approved site for a 20-year period, and the COL pairs a site with a specific certified design prior to construction. Significant time and cost are associated with application and NRC staff review under this Part 52 process; and the last step — the COL — is unproven and a significant source of uncertainty and business risk.

In addition, NP2010 will fund the first‑of-a-kind engineering necessary to reduce the cost premium usually expected in initial construction of plants with new designs. EPRI is providing the industry with R&D support related to detailed engineering and construction of the proposed reactors and is working with the Nuclear Energy Institute on resolving technical issues and standardizing the form and content of licensing submittals.

Meanwhile, renewal of licenses for existing plants continues to make steady progress. In addition to the 48 applications completed and 18 under review, the Commission has received letters of intent for 30 new units, for a total of over 90 as of mid-2008. Consequently, EPRI — working closely with other industry organizations —is currently focused on helping utilities meet the inspection and surveillance commitments required for the granting of 20-year license renewals from the NRC.

Beyond consideration of new plant construction, a variety of mid-range concerns will have to be resolved if nuclear power is to take its place among the primary non-emitting electricity generation options for the long term. Perhaps foremost among these is resolution of the U.S. high-level nuclear waste issues. The Department of Energy submitted the Yucca Mountain license application in June of 2008.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission docketed the application and began its official review in September of 2008. Although an operational spent-fuel repository is not a requirement for new plant construction, state and federal governments — as well as potential investors in new reactors — need confidence that a workable and sustainable spent-fuel management scheme can be put in place. Current efforts by DOE and industry leaders are converging on such a sustainable approach, which includes a centralized interim storage of spent fuel in the very near term, continued progress toward licensing and construction of a permanent spent-fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and ultimate deployment of a proliferation-resistant closed fuel cycle. The first step, centralized interim storage, while not a condition of new plant construction, would clearly erase a major impediment.

A major financial concern had been renewal of the Price-Anderson Act, which provides for the nuclear industry's self-funded liability insurance. The provisions of this legislation are considered by many executives to be a prerequisite for new nuclear plant orders. The enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 provided for continuation of these critical self-insurance provisions.

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 Power Partners Projects

The electric power industry is working together through NuStart, a nuclear development company created in 2004, which is owned by nine power companies. The nine owners - Constellation Energy Group, Duke Energy, EDF International North America, Inc., Entergy Nuclear, Exelon Corporation, FPL Group, Progress Energy, SCANA Corporation, and Southern Company - along with TVA and two nuclear reactor vendors created the NuStart Consortium. The primary goals of the NuStart Consortium are to obtain a COL from NRC and to complete the design engineering for select reactor technologies.

Constellation Energy Group’s initiatives, led by improved and expanded nuclear generation, have resulted in a 27-percent reduction in its GHG emissions intensity from the 2000-2002 base-period average.

Dominion is one of the top three investor-owned producers of nuclear power in the nation, with more than 5,700 MW of generating capacity. In 2005, Dominion acquired a 556 MW nuclear facility in Wisconsin. Dominion’s North Anna and Surry nuclear power stations in Virginia have been ranked among the most efficient nuclear facilities in the nation.

Duke Energy’s three nuclear generating stations increased their annual electricity output due to an increase in each generating station’s availability. The increased electrical output from these generat­ing facilities resulted in less electricity - and fewer CO2 emissions—being produced from coal, oil, and natural gas-based generating facilities.

Entergy added 355 MW of nuclear capacity through 2005 from uprates, and plans an additional 95 MW in 2006. In 2005, 52 percent of the company’s electric energy was produced by nuclear power plants, compared to 40 percent in 1998.

Exelon operates the largest nuclear fleet in the nation and the third largest fleet in the world. In 2005, this fleet produced 130.2 million net megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. The fleet also achieved an average capacity factor of 93.5 percent - the fifth year in a row the capacity factor was above 92 percent. Since 1999, Exelon has added more than 1,000 MW of nuclear capacity through uprates and efficiency projects - enough to serve more than one million average residential customers. This added capacity avoids more than nine million tons of CO2 emissions annually compared to adding the same amount of coal-based generation. By the end of 2006, Exelon plans to add an additional 44 MW through uprates at its nuclear reactors.

NRG Energy, Inc. has announced plans to construct 2,700 MW of new nuclear capacity.

Progress Energy’s nuclear plant uprates helped to avoid more than nine million tons of CO2 emissions in 2005.

Wisconsin Energy Corporation implemented low-pressure turbine retrofit projects to enhance generating capacity at its Point Beach Nuclear Plant, increasing nuclear production and resulting in an average gain of 14 MW per unit. The generating capacity of Units 1 and 2 also has been increased through improved feedwater flow measurement accuracy.

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 References, Sources, and Other Useful Data


Electric Power Research Institute, “Generation Technologies For a Carbon-Constrained World”, EPRI Journal (Summer 2006)
http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?space=CommunityPage&cached=true&parentname=
CommunityPage&parentid=0&in_hi_userid=234&control=SetCommunity&CommunityID=260&PageID=486

Planning future generation investments can be difficult in the context of today’s high fuel costs and regulatory uncertainties. Of particular concern are sharp changes in the price of natural gas and the possibility of future mandatory limits on the atmospheric release of CO2. Research on advanced coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable energy technologies promises to substantially increase the deployment of low- and non-carbon-emitting generation options over the next two decades. Prudent power providers are likely to invest in a number of these advanced technologies, weighing the advantages and risks of each option to build a strategically balanced generation portfolio.

General Electric Corp., “Nuclear Energy”
http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/nuclear_energy/en/index.htm

GE has provided advanced and sophisticated technology for nuclear energy for over five decades. Four main product lines support this capability: new reactors, nuclear fuel, reactor services and performance services.

ITER, "The ITER Project"
http://www.iter.org/proj/Pages/Default.aspx

ITER is a large-scale scientific experiment intended to prove the viability of fusion as an energy source, and to collect the data necessary for the design and subsequent operation of the first electricity-producing fusion power plant. Launched as an idea for international collaboration in 1985, the ITER Agreement includes China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States, representing over half of the world's population. Scientists from all over the world have come together in ITER to work toward a lofty goal: harness the energy produced by the fusion of atoms to help meet mankind's future energy needs.

Nuclear Energy Institute
http://www.nei.org/

The home page for the Nuclear Energy Institute, an extensive website with news and information resources on nuclear technologies, public policy issues, statistics, and more.

Nuclear Energy Institute, “Powering America’s Energy Future” (GP0065, Oct. 2006)
http://www.nei.org/filefolder/nuclear_powering_americas_future.pdf

This publication includes information on the need for new reactors and reflects the dynamic state of new-nuclear-plant activities in the United States. Included are sections on the step-by-step decision process for new-plant licensing, the economic benefits that nuclear plants provide and an overview of the major plant designs under consideration for construction in the United States.

NuStart Energy, "Exploring the Future: The Environment Matters in Electric Generation"
http://www.nustartenergy.com/

NuStart Energy Development, LLC, is a limited liability company formed in 2004 with ten member companies. These members, plus two reactor vendors form the NuStart Consortium. The consortium objectives are: 1) to demonstrate the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission?s (NRC) never-before-used licensing process for obtaining a combined Construction and Operating License (COL) for an advanced nuclear power plant; and 2) complete the design engineering for the two selected reactor technologies.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, “Nuclear Power 2010”
http://www.ne.doe.gov/np2010/overview.html

The Nuclear Power 2010 program, unveiled by the Secretary on February 14, 2002, is a joint government/industry cost-shared effort to identify sites for new nuclear power plants, develop and bring to market advanced nuclear plant technologies, evaluate the business case for building new nuclear power plants, and demonstrate untested regulatory processes leading to an industry decision in the next few years to seek Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approval to build and operate at least one new advanced nuclear power plant in the United States.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, “Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems”
http://nuclear.energy.gov/genIV/neGenIV1.html

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology has engaged governments, industry, and the research community worldwide in a wide-ranging discussion on the development of next-generation nuclear energy systems known as "Generation IV". This has resulted in the formation of the Generation-IV International Forum (GIF), a group whose member countries are interested in jointly defining the future of nuclear energy research and development.

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Last revised: Dec. 11, 2009.