Skip to main content

EIA Estimates Positive Growth for Nuclear Energy In Latest Annual Energy Outlook

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that electricity generated by nuclear energy in the United States is projected to increase 10 percent by 2035 over 2010 totals if current laws and regulations remain unchanged. This scenario, deemed the “reference case,” is one of the EIA’s 30 scenarios released this week in its Annual Energy Outlook 2012 that project varying levels of change in the energy sector due to market and policy influences.

Richard Myers, NEI’s vice president for policy development, said:

“The Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook is an important tool for policymakers—not because it describes a single future, but because it illuminates the range of futures that might develop given certain business and policy conditions. It’s worth remembering that the Annual Energy Outlook’s reference case in the mid-1990s forecast the premature shutdown of approximately one-half of U.S. nuclear generating capacity, in the belief that many nuclear power plants would be unable to compete in a deregulated electricity market. In retrospect, that forecast was wildly pessimistic, and the 104 nuclear power plants that now provide 20 percent of America’s electricity are always dispatched when available, thanks to their low production costs.”

The reference case in this year’s report estimates that 15.8 gigawatts (GW) of new nuclear generating capacity will be added between 2010 and 2035 due to the construction of new nuclear plants (8.5 GW) and power uprates at existing nuclear energy facilities (7.3 GW). Other scenarios in the report found that U.S. nuclear capacity in 2035 could range from 77.9 GW in the low-nuclear case to 225 GW in a case where carbon emissions are controlled at $25 per ton. Current nuclear generating capacity stands at approximately 100 GW.

The other two major scenarios outlined for nuclear energy in the report during the 25-year time period include:

  • “High-nuclear case” – In this scenario, electricity generated by nuclear energy in 2035 is 10 percent higher than the reference case and nuclear energy’s share of total U.S. electricity generation is 20 percent. This scenario assumes that all current nuclear plants under construction and the ones with active license applications before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are built, and that all operating nuclear plants receive their second license renewals to operate through 2035. These assumptions project an additional 6.2 GW of new nuclear capacity on top of the reference case will be added to the electricity grid.
  • “Low-nuclear case” – In this model, electricity generated by nuclear power in 2035 is 30 percent lower than the reference case, reducing nuclear energy’s share of total U.S. electricity generation to 13 percent. This scenario assumes that 30.9 GW of nuclear capacity will be retired after 60 years of operation.

EIA_AnnualEnergyOutlook2012

Other notable nuclear energy-related findings from the report include:

  • Compared to the reference case, the high-nuclear case in 2035 assumes that the real average electricity prices for consumers decreases by 1 percent, demonstrating the value of America’s operating nuclear plants to electricity consumers. In the low-nuclear case, EIA estimates an increase in these prices by 5 percent compared to the reference case.
  • Compared to the reference case, a high-nuclear case in 2035 assumes carbon emissions from the power sector decrease by 1 percent, highlighting the role nuclear energy facilities play in reducing America’s greenhouse gases. In the low-nuclear scenario, EIA estimates that these emissions could increase 3 percent compared to the reference case.
  • While nuclear plants may be expensive to build, they still present an attractive option to utilities looking to diversify their fuel mix. This could be an important element if potential greenhouse gas emission regulations are put into effect or natural gas prices increase.
  • As industry research on managing long-term reactor operations and aging management issues continues, companies may soon be able to extend their licenses to operate beyond 60 years, which could be an important factor in nuclear energy’s future outlook. The report states that “the first application seeking to operate for 80 years is tentatively scheduled to be submitted by 2013.”
  • Although some governments—including Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Italy—have slowed or halted nuclear energy production as a result of the Fukushima accident, EIA predicts that overall production will likely expand since countries still face the same challenges over energy security and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. These challenges highlight the important role nuclear energy plays in providing domestic, carbon-free, baseload electricity.

For more information on the scenarios outlined for nuclear energy, see the EIA’s report (pages 50-52, 74 and 89).

Image credits: The chart can be found on page 89 of the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…