Abstract from Jerud E. Hanson and G. G. Young:
This paper will demonstrate the long-term economic and environmental benefits of extending the operation of the U.S.’s nuclear reactors to 80 years, and will provide perspective from those U.S. utilities that intend to pursue second license renewal (SLR.)
While nuclear power plants require significant capital investment, they are the largest and most reliable emission-free source of electricity. Federal law and regulations governing the safety of U.S. nuclear reactors allow for extensions of the initial 40-year operating license in 20-year increments, putting the current operating lifetime of a U.S. nuclear power plant at 60 years. Extending the life of operating reactors in the U.S. through SLR makes economic and environmental sense for consumers, communities and the utilities that operate these facilities.
America’s evolving electricity marketplace is faced with growing requirements for baseload reliability and mandates for low-carbon electricity production, placing a high premium on preserving existing nuclear generating capacity and ensuring nuclear energy maintains its current 20 percent share of U.S. electricity supply. In 2013, electricity production from U.S. nuclear power plants was about 790 billion kilowatt-hours and nearly 20 percent of America’s electricity supply.
Over the past 20 years, America’s nuclear power plants have increased output and improved performance significantly. Since 1990, the nuclear industry has increased total output equivalent to that of 26 large power plants, when in fact only five new nuclear power plants have been brought on line. But by 2030, the U.S. could experience electricity shortages if a significant number of nuclear plants are retired. By 2040, half of the U.S.’s nuclear power plants will have been operating for 60 years. Electrical utilities in the U.S. must begin planning either to continue operating these plants or to develop new sources of electric generation and decommission the reactors.
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