U.S. Nuclear Capacity Trending Upward Amid Closures

Plans have been made to close 2,000-plus megawatts (MW) of U.S. nuclear generating capacity in the next four years, but that will hardly have a negative effect on the country’s capacity as a whole. In fact, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipates a net increase between 2016 and 2020, thanks to the planned additions of more than 5,000 MW of capacity.

The trends in nuclear plant construction and closure support this assertion. Five new U.S. reactors are being constructed in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. On the other hand, Entergy Corp. intends to close its Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Massachusetts by 2019, and New Jersey’s Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station is scheduled to close the same year.

The math suggests the capacity gains will outweigh whatever is lost with these closures. The Pilgrim and Oyster Creek stations currently have capacities of 685 MW and 678 MW, respectively, while the reactors under construction have goals that reach nearly twice that capacity. The forthcoming Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee is estimated to have a capacity of about 1,150 MW, while other reactors under construction are anticipating capacities of about 1,117 MW.

Closing nuclear power plants is not a recent trend. In the past four years, four plants (totaling five reactors) have been shut down, resulting in a loss of more than 4,000 MW in capacity.

Currently, the average capacity for a nuclear unit is around 1,000 MW. The largest nuclear plant in the United States is Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, with 3,937 MW in total capacity. In all, the country currently hosts 99 operating nuclear power reactors in 62 power plants located in 30 different states, according to the EIA.

About the Author

Matthew Kraus

Matthew Kraus is director of communications at NECA and previously was senior editor of ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR for five years. He can be reached at mkraus@necanet.org.

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