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Nuclear Energy: Fact Check
How Much Does the United States Use?
With the nuclear reactor crisis in Japan continuing to unfold, an important discussion has been taking place in the U.S. about the current and future role of nuclear energy and our aging nuclear reactors. We have noticed that in the media, there is sometimes a gap between what is being stated as fact, and what is actually fact. For example, prominent U.S. officials have stated recently, "We get 20 percent of our energy right now in the United States from nuclear power."
In fact, nuclear power is responsible for 8.6% of total U.S. energy consumption.
Twenty point seven percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, including electrical energy generation and transmission losses, is attributed to nuclear power. The 20.7%, or 8.39 QBtu, is made up of 2.19 QBtu of electricity delivered to the place of use, and 6.2 QBtu of energy losses from generation (waste heat) and transmission.
The following graph illustrates total U.S. energy consumption (delivered energy and electrical energy losses from generation and transmission), total U.S. electricity consumption, and the total U.S. energy consumption attributed to nuclear power:
Assumptions: Average U.S. nuclear plant efficiency is calculated at 32.6% (Source: EIA [3][4]), and transmission losses at 6.5% (Source:EIA [5]).

More to Know About U.S. Nuclear Energy:
  • There are 104 nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S. (Source: NEI) [1]
  • The 104 reactors have a net summer capacity of 100,755 MW. (Source: Architecture 2030
    & NEI) [2]
  • Nuclear energy provides 3.1% of total U.S. delivered energy; 8.6% of total U.S. energy consumption is attributed to nuclear energy. (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA) [3][4][5]
  • Nuclear energy provides 17.1% of total U.S. delivered electricity; 20.7% of total U.S. electricity consumption is attributed to nuclear energy (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA) [3][4][5]
  • It takes approximately thirty-seven 1000MW nuclear reactors to produce one Quad (quadrillion Btu) of delivered energy. (Source: EIA, Table 6.1.2) [6]
  • The last nuclear reactor to be built in the U.S. was Watts Bar 1 in Tennessee in June 1996 (1,123 MW). (Source: NEI) [1]
  • Of the 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S., 4.8% are older than 40 years, 38.5% are older than 35 years, and over half are older than 30 years. (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA, Table 3) [7]
  • Nuclear reactors in the U.S. are licensed to operate for 40 years. Owners can file with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for operating extensions. (Source EIA) [8]
  • It costs approximately $300-500 million to decommission a nuclear plant. (Source: NEI) [9]
  • There are 13 potential reactors that are currently under review for a new commercial license. (Source: EIA) [10]
  • The EIA estimates that the initial capital cost (overnight cost) of a new reactor is $5,339 per kW, or $5.3 billion for a 1000 MW reactor. Financing cost, long construction periods, and escalating costs can push the total cost well above the overnight cost. (Source: EIA, Table 2) [11]
  • Subsidies for ongoing nuclear reactors range from 0.74 - 4.16 c/kWh for investor owned utilities (IOUs) and 1.53 - 5.77 c/kWh for publicly owned utilities (POUs). Subsidies for new reactors range from 5.01 - 11.42 c/kWh for IOUs and 4.20 - 8.68 c/kWh for POUs. At the higher end of these ranges, the subsidies exceed the value of the energy produced. The subsidies come from a wide range of sources: federal loan guarantees (Title 17 of the Energy Policy Act, EPACT, 2005), accelerated depreciation, subsidized borrowing costs, property tax abatements, depletion allowances for uranium mining, under-priced water for cooling, and production tax credits. In addition, the federal government helps significantly with security, risk, waste, and decommissioning management. (Source: UCS) [12]
  • The IAEA estimates that approximately 20 percent of nuclear reactors around the world are currently operating in areas of significant seismic activity. (Source: IAEA) [13]

Reported by Architecture 2030 Researchers:

Vincent Martinez
Director of Research

Francesca Desmarais
Principal Researcher

Upcoming talks with Ed Mazria:
Phoenix, AZ – March 24
AIA Arizona Eco Month

6pm. Tempe Center for the Arts.
$10. Free for AIA and AIAS Members.
Learn more

Washington, DC – April 18
AIA DC / CUA Lecture

12pm. The Catholic University of America, Koubek Auditorium.
$25 members. $40.00 non-members. Free for students and AIA+2030 participants. Registration required.
Learn more

New York, NY – April 20
AIA NY Committee on the Environment / Cooper Union

6:30pm. Cooper Union, Great Hall.
Free for AIA members and Cooper Union students with RSVP and Membership ID at the door.
$5 for all other students.
$15 for general public.
Learn more

Vancouver, BC – May 26
Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC)
2011 Festival of Architecture

7pm. Simon Fraser University – Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema.
Free and open to the public.
Learn more (also see below)

Edward Mazria Inducted as Honorary Fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, Delivering Convocation Keynote at
2011 Festival of Architecture.

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