U.S. nuclear energy facilities generated electricity at a record high level of efficiency in 2014, again demonstrating nuclear energy's value to the reliability and stability of the electric grid and to the nation's economy.
One hundred nuclear power plants operating in 31 states posted an estimated average capacity factor of 91.9 percent, based on preliminary 2014 data compiled by the Nuclear Energy Institute. That surpasses the industry's prior record set in 2007 by one-tenth of a percentage point. Capacity factor measures total electricity generated as a percentage of year-round potential generation.
Actual electricity production from nuclear energy facilities last year was the sixth-highest ever, at an estimated 798.4 billion kilowatt-hours (kwh). The industry's record high electricity generation came in 2010, when the 104 reactors then operating produced 806.9 billion kwh of electricity while posting an industry average capacity factor of 90.9 percent.
"The 2014 numbers show unequivocally how important well-performing nuclear energy is to America's energy security, the economy and our quality of life," said NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel. "Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the highly skilled men and women who work at these facilities, at the reactor vendors who provide support services, and in other capacities, U.S. nuclear power plants continue to operate at high levels of safety while generating affordable electricity that our society and our economy rely on."
During periods of extreme weather, nuclear energy facilities' value is even greater. For example, at the height of the arctic blast that chilled the eastern United States on Jan. 8, nuclear power plants met significant portions of the electric demand load in their respective markets at levels well above their installed generating capacity. In the densely populated PJM market encompassing the mid-Atlantic region and large portions of the Midwest, PJM's nuclear power plants provided about 27 percent of the region's early afternoon electricity demand, even though they constitute only about 19 percent of the region's installed electric generating capacity.
U.S. nuclear energy facilities for the past two decades have annually produced about one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies, even as total electricity demand has increased significantly. Because of their sector-leading capacity factors they have done so even though nuclear power plants constitute only about 10 percent of the nation's installed electric generating capacity.