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U.S. Nuclear Plants Humming Along During June 2012 Heat Wave

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the month of June experienced 170 all-time high temperature records being broken or tied throughout the country. They also reported that the first half of 2012 has been the warmest first half period on record back to 1895. As such, we wanted to share that most all of the U.S. nuclear plants were humming along at full power during June, helping provide electricity to air conditioners to keep all of us cool during these hot times.

Below are three charts breaking out the daily availability data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which we aggregated based on the North American Electric Reliability Council they belong to. You can find the list of plants and their region on page 4 of this report.

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The following chart shows a daily average of the 104 nuclear units. Overall, the U.S. fleet was running at a steady average availability of 90.5% during the last four weeks.

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And the last chart shows the NERC regions, how many reactors belong to each region in the U.S., and their average availability.

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It’s worth pointing out that two of the regions, MRO and WECC, had  a lower average availability factor of 82% and 68%, respectively. This was mainly because three of the 14 reactors in those regions have been in long-term shutdown.

Average availability in MRO is lower because Fort Calhoun is down (1 unit out of 6). If we take Fort Calhoun out of the calculation, the plants that are running in that region have an average availability of 98.2%.

Similarly in WECC, the two San Onofre units are down. If we take San Onofre out, the other six reactors in the region have an average availability of 90.3%.

And in SERC and FRCC, Crystal River (1 unit out of 38) has also been down. Take Crystal River out of the equation, and the plants running have an average availability of 95.5% (vs. 93.0% for all 38).

Performance of Other Technologies

There isn’t similar daily availability data for other technologies to compare their performances to nuclear during the same heat wave. But to give an idea of how they perform annually, below is a chart of average capacity factors for various power sources.

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August is typically the summer month for peak nuclear generation. As the summer progresses, we’ll see nearly all nuclear units online by then.

Though this year’s trend isn’t looking promising, hopefully temps will be a bit cooler for everyone during the rest of the summer. Stay cool.

Comments

Pete51 said…
The third chart down is a little misleading, since there are several CANDU plants in the NPCC region, but only the US plants are reported.

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