Nuclear Energy: Fact Check 2

Your Questions Answered

On March 22, Architecture 2030 distributed the E-News Bulletin, Nuclear Energy: Fact Check in order to inform critical discussions taking place around nuclear energy in the United States. The response was tremendous, with numerous questions and requests for clarification.

This Special Bulletin aims to answer those questions and bring further clarity to the issue.

1. For clarification, labels on the following graph, originally titled “energy losses“, have been amended to read “electrical energy losses“.
Assumptions: Average U.S. nuclear plant efficiency is calculated at 32.6% (Source: EIA [1][2]), and transmission losses at 6.5% (Source:EIA [3]).

For a definition of Delivered Energy, click here.

2. The following graph illustrates U.S. Energy Consumption in 2035, as projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Notes: In 2035, nuclear energy is projected to provide 2.9% of total U.S. delivered energy; 8.0% of total projected U.S. energy consumption is attributed to nuclear energy. (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA)

In 2035, nuclear energy is projected to provide 15.7% of total U.S. delivered electricity; 19.9% of total U.S. electricity consumption is attributed to nuclear energy (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA)

3. The following Additional Facts are from research conducted by Architecture 2030 to address specific questions related to the original Nuclear Energy: Fact Check (2030 E-News Bulletin #28).
  • The mean construction time (construction start date to first date of commercial operation) for the 104 nuclear reactors is 9.3 years. Over forty percent of the reactors (41.35%) had construction periods greater than 10 years, and 7.69% had construction periods over 15 years. The last nuclear reactor to come online (Watts Bar 1 in Tennessee) actually had a construction period of 23 years and almost 7 months. (Source: Architecture 2030 and EIA)
  • The latest application for a new nuclear reactor (June 2009: Turkey Point Units 6 and 7, Homestead, FL) estimates the total project cost between $12.8 billion to $18.7 billion for the two reactors (combined capacity of 2,234 MW). (Source: NRC and EIA)
  • In 2009, nuclear fuel cost 0.57 c/kWh. A nuclear reactor is refueled every 18-24 months (replacing a third of its core) at a cost of $40 million. (Source: NEI)
  • A typical nuclear power plant generates 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel annually. The U.S. nuclear industry generates a total of 2,300 metric tons of used fuel per year. (Source: NEI)
  • The U.S. currently holds 62,490 metric tons of used nuclear fuel (uranium). Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina are the states that hold the largest amounts at 7,670, 5,650, and 3,780 metric tons, respectively. (Source: NEI)
  • On March 3, 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy requested to withdraw the license for Yucca Mountain, ending the only U.S. program for a high-level nuclear waste repository. A Blue Ribbon Commission has been established to study alternative options for long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste. (Source: DOE)
  • The capacity factor of nuclear plants in 2009 was 90.5%. (Source: NEI)

Reported by Architecture 2030 Researchers:

Vincent Martinez
Director of Research
Francesca Desmarais
Principal Researcher

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]).

The following graph illustrates U.S. Energy Consumption in 2035, as projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Notes: In 2035, nuclear energy is projected to provide 2.9% of total U.S. delivered energy; 8.0% of total projected U.S. energy consumption is attributed to nuclear energy. (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA)

In 2035, nuclear energy is projected to provide 15.7% of total U.S. delivered electricity; 19.9% of total U.S. electricity consumption is attributed to nuclear energy (Source: Architecture 2030 & EIA)


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]
  • The mean construction time (construction start date to first date of commercial operation) for the 104 nuclear reactors is 9.3 years. Over forty percent of the reactors (41.35%) had construction periods greater than 10 years, and 7.69% had construction periods over 15 years. The last nuclear reactor to come online (Watts Bar 1 in Tennessee) actually had a construction period of 23 years and almost 7 months. (Source: Architecture 2030 and EIA)
  • The latest application for a new nuclear reactor (June 2009: Turkey Point Units 6 and 7, Homestead, FL) estimates the total project cost between $12.8 billion to $18.7 billion for the two reactors (combined capacity of 2,234 MW). (Source: NRC and EIA)
  • In 2009, nuclear fuel cost 0.57 c/kWh. A nuclear reactor is refueled every 18-24 months (replacing a third of its core) at a cost of $40 million. (Source: NEI)
  • A typical nuclear power plant generates 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel annually. The U.S. nuclear industry generates a total of 2,300 metric tons of used fuel per year. (Source: NEI)
  • The U.S. currently holds 62,490 metric tons of used nuclear fuel (uranium). Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina are the states that hold the largest amounts at 7,670, 5,650, and 3,780 metric tons, respectively. (Source: NEI)
  • On March 3, 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy requested to withdraw the license for Yucca Mountain, ending the only U.S. program for a high-level nuclear waste repository. A Blue Ribbon Commission has been established to study alternative options for long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste. (Source: DOE)
  • The capacity factor of nuclear plants in 2009 was 90.5%. (Source: NEI)

Reported by Architecture 2030 Researchers:

Vincent Martinez
Director of Research
Francesca Desmarais
Principal Researcher

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Why Consider the Embodied Carbon Content of Buildings? Edward Mazria Explains.

How to Create Jobs and Reduce Deficit Spending

BBI

An independent analysis conducted by Architecture 2030 illustrates that the Administration’s Better Buildings Initiative (BBI) can put the nation’s commercial real estate (CRE) market on the road to recovery, creating at least 300,000 new U.S. jobs and boosting tax revenue to begin putting money back into federal, state, and local coffers.

This comes as the nation’s ongoing CRE crisis continues to threaten the recovery, with $1.4 trillion in CRE loans becoming due between now and 2014 (half of which are underwater) and commercial vacancy rates showing little sign of improvement. Meanwhile, those hardest hit – construction workers, small businesses, and small banks – are still bearing the brunt of this debacle. Construction unemployment is now at 22.5% and, in the first two months of 2011 alone, another 23 community or regional banks shuttered their doors (for a total of 320 bank failures since 2009).

The Administration’s BBI plan, unveiled early last month, spurs CRE recovery by leveraging a commercial building efficiency tax credit of $.60 to $1.80 per square foot for meeting energy reductions of 20% to 50% below the ASHRAE 90.1-2004 standard. The Administration’s initiative mirrors similar CRE tax incentives called for by Architecture 2030 in the CRE Solution (June 2010).

“This is a great opportunity for Congress to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and resuscitate Commercial Real Estate without adding additional burden to the U.S. deficit.”

Edward Mazria
Founder and CEO, Architecture 2030

In a Fact Sheet published today, Architecture 2030 reports that for each $1 billion in BBI commercial building efficiency tax credits, the program will generate $16.4 billion in new private spending and $3.6 billion in new federal tax revenue.

The program will not only pay for itself, but also reduce deficit spending by $2.6 billion. Additionally, each $1 billion in CRE tax credits would:

  • Create 303,551 jobs*, quickly and cost effectively,
  • Increase after-tax cash flow and property values,
  • Reduce loan defaults,
  • Increase CRE desirability and investment value,
  • Increase new CRE sales (by narrowing the gap between the bid and ask price of CRE property),
  • Bring ESCo’s and A/E/C firms into the CRE market,
  • Decrease building energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and operating costs,
  • Generate $1.2 billion in state and local government tax revenue, and
  • Generate $4.8 billion in total tax revenue before the $1 billion tax credit is given.

Although commercial buildings are often thought of as big-box stores or high rises in city centers, 90 percent are actually smaller than 25,000 square feet. These are mostly one- and two-story, single- or double-occupancy buildings that are easy and inexpensive to add on to and/or renovate. If Section 179D is amended, the tax credit would apply to property placed in service on or before December 31, 2013.

For the Architecture 2030 Better Buildings Initiative Fact Sheet and companion analysis, click here.


* The 303,551 jobs created include 138,494 direct jobs, 78,071 indirect jobs, and 86,985 induced jobs.
  See the Architecture 2030 BBI Fact Sheet for all assumptions and sources used to generate these figures.