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Updated 2009 Nuclear Stats

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve updated a large number of stats on our website for the curious public as we normally do every April and May. After updating our stats for a number of years, it’s always been interesting to analyze and see how the latest numbers have changed. For instance, US nuclear plants generated slightly less electricity in 2009 than in 2008, yet nuclear’s fuel share increased from 19.6% in 2008 to 20.2% in 2009. That’s simply because electricity generation declined by four percent in the US due to that major economic setback we’re finally coming out of. FERC’s latest state of the markets report noted the following (pdf):

This [2009] was the greatest decline in a single year in at least 60 years and, with 2008, the only time electricity demand has fallen in consecutive years since 1949.

Below are a few summaries of our latest updates as well as links to new stats that you may be interested in.

2009 Production Costs for Coal and Nuclear Tick Up, Gas and Oil Tick Down

Among the more notable changes in numbers are the production costs of nuclear compared to fossil fuels. In 2009, the US nuclear fleet’s production costs were 2.03 cents/kWh, a 5% increase from 2008 after adjusting for inflation. Coal’s production costs for 2009 were 2.97 cents/kWh (6% increase over 2008), gas was 5.00 cents/kWh (36% decrease over 2008), and petroleum was 12.37 cents/kWh (30% decrease over 2008).


The spike in uranium spot prices in 2006 and 2007 has begun to impact nuclear fuel costs which increased from 0.51 cents/kWh in 2008 to 0.57 cents/kWh in 2009. Nuclear operations and maintenance (O&M) costs remained the same as the previous year at 1.46 cents/kWh in 2009. (Production costs are the O&M plus fuel costs for a power plant; 1 cent/kWh equals $10/MWh.)

Even though nuclear fuel costs saw a noticeable increase last year; when compared to other fuels such as gas and oil, nuclear clearly maintained its low and stable costs.


2009 CO2 Emissions Avoided by US Nuclear Were the Lowest Since 1997

In 2009, the 104 operating nuclear units avoided 647 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, much less than previous years. The major reason for the decline is not that nuclear generation fell significantly from 2008 to 2009 but that US electric generation from coal dropped fairly dramatically.

Emissions avoided are calculated using regional and national fossil fuel emission rates from the Environmental Protection Agency and plant generation data from the Energy Information Administration. Since coal emits the most CO2 of any fossil-fuel, a decline in its generation means that emission rates will be lower across the country. This is the reason why CO2 emissions avoided by nuclear was the lowest since 1997.

Other updates for your intellectual gain include:

2009 US nuclear generation and capacity factor

In 2009, nuclear’s fuel share was 20.2%, generation was 798,744,738 MWh and capacity factor was 90.5%. For details on each reactor’s generation, capacity and capacity factor for 2009, click here.

2009 Capacity Factors by Fuel Type

Below are the capacity factors for the following fuel (and prime mover types) for 2009:

imageNew Nuclear Plant Status

AEHI changed its reactor technology choice from the EPR to undecided and changed its Idaho location from Elmore County to Payette County. The company plans to submit an application in FY 2012. Exelon submitted an ESP in May for the Victoria County, TX site. And Dominion selected the APWR as its design.

If anyone asks what’s the status of new plants in the US, a stat to remember is this: the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is actively reviewing 13 combined license applications from 12 companies and consortia for 22 nuclear power plants totaling 27,800 MW.

State Electricity Generation Fuel Shares

State-by-state electricity generation fuel shares have been updated for 2009.

Nuclear Waste Fund Statistics – Q2 FY 2010

As of March 31, 2010, $34.7 billion have been committed to the Fund, of which $24.7 billion remain.

If anyone is yearning for more, there is plenty of nuclear numbers located in our Resources and Stats section left to view, I recommend checking out the 2009 world nuclear figures.

Side note – We know the use of our PowerPoint and Excel files are not necessarily the easiest ways to transfer stats across the internet. For those who are inconvenienced, we’re looking into creating html or image files that will make it easier for users to view and link to the info. If anyone has suggestions on other ways to make the transfer of info easier, we’d be eager to know.

Hope you enjoy the latest round of updates!


Friakel Wippans said…

Do you know what's going on with the EIA stats on spent nuclear fuel?

Last data is from 2002. They were supposed to updated in 2008, then pushed back to 2009, then pushed again to sometimes this year.
David Bradish said…
Hmm, never really paid attention to EIA's spent fuel stats. That's probably because we have our own which is collected by surveying the plants.
Amy said…
Thanks David for the updated stats! I recently used the football field and 7 yards deep reference for amount of used fuel in the US for the last 50 years.

What happens to this conceptual visual when we consider reprocessing the used fuel?
Mike said…
I was a bit shocked to see hydro as low as it was. Any ideas why this is?
Anonymous said…
Hydro capacity factors are low because many dams are designed specfically for peaking/seasonal use and generate very little power during low demand periods. The generator capacity is much larger than the actual annual storage capacity.
DocForesight said…
Over at they note that, despite our not having actually built any new reactors in 30 years (or so), our efficiency and up-rates to existing NPPs have contributed the equivalent of building 20+ 1 GWe reactors.

Can NEI verify that assessment?
Pete said…
Thank you for looking into the possibility of putting these graphs and other images directly onto the NEI website, rather than having to download xls and ppt files. I think this would be an improvement to an already excellent website.
Anonymous said…
I would argue that capacity factors are not a good measure of nuclear performance vs. other energy sources because while nuclear is base load, other sources listed (other than wind/solar which has inherently low capacity factors due to nature) are either load-following or peaker units.
gmax137 said…
Well yes, capacity factor by itself doesn't tell the whole story. But I would say that the increase in average capacity factors over the past 20 years indicates that the nuclear units are being operated and maintained much better than they were. Also, in an ideal world (where engineers operate the system rather than speculators), the least expensive (operating cost) units will be run first and the more expensive units will be lit off last as power demand increases. So, when you say the nuclear units are 'base load' what you're really saying is that they are the cheapest to run (at any given time). And that is a measure of their performance.

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