‹ Analysis & Projections

Annual Energy Outlook 2011

Release Date: April 26, 2011   |  Next Early Release Date: January 23, 2012  |   Report Number: DOE/EIA-0383(2011)

Nuclear

EPACT2005 tax credits stimulate some nuclear builds

In the AEO2011 Reference case, nuclear power capacity increases from 101.0 gigawatts in 2009 to 110.5 gigawatts in 2035 (Figure 82), including 3.8 gigawatts of expansion at existing plants and 6.3 gigawatts of new capacity. The new capacity includes completion of a second unit at the Watts Bar site, where construction on a partially completed plant has resumed. Increases in the estimated costs for new nuclear plants make new investments in nuclear power uncertain. Four new nuclear power plants are completed in the Reference case, all of which are brought on line by 2020 to take advantage of Federal financial incentives. High construction costs for nuclear plants, especially relative to natural-gas-fired plants, make other options for new nuclear capacity uneconomical even in the alternative electricity demand and fuel price cases. In the GHG Price Economywide case, which attaches a price to reductions in carbon dioxide, total nuclear capacity additions from 2010 to 2035 increase to 29 gigawatts as a consequence of the higher costs for operating fossil-fueled capacity.

figure data

One nuclear unit, Oyster Creek, is expected to be retired at the end of 2019, as announced by Exelon in December 2010. All other existing nuclear units continue to operate through 2035 in the Reference case, which assumes that they will apply for, and receive, operating license renewals, including in some cases a second 20-year extension after they reach 60 years of operation. As discussed in last year's "Issues in focus" section, it will likely be a decade or more before significant insight can be gained regarding what will happen beyond 60 years. With costs for natural-gas-fired generation rising and future regulation of GHG emissions uncertain, the economics of keeping existing nuclear power plants in operation are favorable.