EIA Predicts Nuclear Share of U.S. Generation to Fall Nearly 10% by 2050
In 2016, nuclear power accounted for about 20% of U.S. power generation, but that share is expected to fall to just 11% in 2050, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) 2017 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO2017).
According to the EIA, 25% of the nation’s nuclear capacity, excluding plants that have already announced retirement, is likely to be taken offline by 2050. “The AEO2017 Reference case projections do not envision a large amount of new nuclear capacity additions. By 2050, only four reactors currently under construction and some uprates at existing plants are projected to come online,” EIA announced May 12.
The fall in nuclear generation is due in part to significant increases in natural gas and renewables. However, the report notes, “Except during maintenance or refueling cycles, nuclear plants operate around the clock as baseload generators, meaning nuclear plants make up a disproportionately large share of generation compared with their share of electricity generating capacity. Generating capacity using other fuels is typically dispatched at much lower rates than nuclear units.”
Interestingly, the EIA report assumes that current projects in South Carolina and Georgia will be completed. While work is currently underway on SCANA’s V.C. Summer project and Southern Co.’s Plant Vogtle, the future of those projects is far from certain.
Following the March 29 announcement that Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy, SCANA and Southern Co. are in the process of assessing if their projects should move forward. According to the filing, the bankruptcy was tied to financial setbacks resulting from those half-built AP1000 reactors.
Both SCANA and Southern Co. have entered into Interim Assessment Agreements (IAA) allowing construction to continue on the projects while the companies decide how to proceed. SCANA’s IAA runs through June 26, and Southern Co.’s expires May 12. Southern Co. did not immediately respond to an inquiry about if a decision had been made as the IAA expired. It is possible that the IAA will be extended.
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