|NEI VP Richard J. Myers|
Electricity production issues are not quite as cut-and-dried as portrayed in the article, certainly not from the vantage point of energy companies who must evaluate an array of factors to determine what their future generating mix will and will not be. A nuclear energy facility produces benefits well beyond the electricity it generates. They include economic benefits like jobs, taxes and procurement; grid reliability benefits in the form of voltage support and ancillary services; the environmental benefit of avoided emissions; and the energy security benefits of an electricity source that adds diversity and forward price stability to the electricity supply portfolio.For those who might have missed it, here's a table from the Energy Information Administration's Northeastern Winter Natural Gas and Electricity Alert that highlights those dizzying spot prices Richard referenced in his response.
It also bears noting that extremely low natural gas prices in the United States are not sustainable. Low natural gas prices are caused by a combination of reduced demand for natural gas (due to subpar economic growth), abnormally mild weather for the past several winters and a major increase in supply (due to improved drilling techniques that have unlocked vast reserves of shale gas). As the result of low gas prices, producers of natural gas have already slowed drilling: the number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States has dropped approximately 50 percent in the past 12 months. At the same time, the historic volatility of natural gas prices continues to be seen in the spot market. Just last week, natural gas prices in New England and New York City topped $30 per million BTUs, the highest level seen this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For New England, this was actually the highest level seen since January 2004.
Judgments about the viability of any given nuclear power plant are business decisions made by individual utilities based on economic circumstances unique to the facility. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s long-term belief is that, beyond the ongoing construction of five reactors in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, new nuclear energy facilities will be built once electricity demand rebounds. Demand for electricity in the United States has not yet returned to the level seen in 2007, before the financial crisis.