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Nuclear Power In The United States

In the United States, nuclear power supplies 101 Gigawatts, meeting approximately 19% of the nation’s energy needs. The US is the largest supplier of commercial nuclear power in the world. 99 commercial reactors are currently under operation at 65 different facilities. Because it is difficult to rapidly ramp up or turn down a reactor, nuclear power plants supply the “base load” of US electrical demand while peak demand, during heatwaves and their associated spike in cooling demand, is handled by coal- and gas-powered plants. However, like most electrical generators, nuclear reactors must be routinely maintained and refueled every 18-24 months, requiring a shutdown of the reactor. While a reactor can be refueled in as little as 10 days, operators typically schedule non-critical maintenance during refueling periods, meaning that the average down-time is closer to 2 months. Such shutdowns usually occur during the demand-minimum (“the Shoulder Season”) during the spring and fall when as much as 25% of US nuclear capacity may be offline at any given time. It usually falls to natural gas to make up for the lost electricity generation. A general rule of thumb is that for every 2000 megawatts that goes offline, 500 mmcf of natural gas per day must be burned to generate the same quantity of electrical power. Because of the long-term nature of nuclear reactor downtime, major deviations from historical averages in the status of nuclear power plants can add up and significantly impact natural gas demand, particularly during the otherwise anemic shoulder season. All data presented here is courtesy of the Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC).Unlike wind, solar, and hydro, nuclear power above all satisfies baseload demand and does not vary significantly throughout the day. As a result, the outages and output reported here are for the entire 24-period and are published once daily around 7 AM EDT once the NRC issues its daily outlook. For natural gas substitution demand for the entire storage week, weekend outages are based on Friday's outages.

Nuclear Output Vs Natural Gas Demand


Current Nuclear Outages

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