NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 28, 2005

Building new nuclear power plants is essential to meet our growing energy requirements while addressing environmental concerns, say Larry Foulke, the immediate past president of the American Nuclear Society, and H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

  • U.S. demand for electricity will increase 50 percent by 2025, according to forecasts in the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) "Annual Energy Outlook 2004."
  • At least 350,000 megawatts of new generating capacity -- hundreds of new power plants -- will be needed before then.
  • In 1980 the average nuclear plant operated at 58.5 percent of its rated capacity; today's nuclear plants average more than 90 percent of capacity.
  • Indeed, the increased electricity produced by existing nuclear plants since 1990 could power 26 cities the size of Boston or Seattle.

Due to consolidation within the nuclear power industry, streamlined federal relicensing procedures and improved operating efficiency, operating costs have fallen from 3.31 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1988 to 1.7 cents, which is slightly lower than coal and much lower than the 3 to 5 cents per Kwh cost for natural gas-fired plants. Only hydroelectric plants have lower operating costs.

Fortunately, new technologies and improved knowledge about risk factors have made it possible to produce much safer light-water nuclear plants with fewer, standardized parts. Construction costs have fallen from the range of $2 to $6 billion to an estimated $1.4 to $1.8 billion. While still more expensive to build than most other types of electric power generating facilities, low fuel costs make nuclear power one of the cheapest electricity sources, say Foulke and Burnett.

Source: Larry Foulke and H. Sterling Burnett, "Burning Bright: Nuclear Energy's Future," Brief Analysis No. 511, National Center for Policy Analysis, March 28, 2005.

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