U.S. Nuclear Power Prospects

In today's U.S. power markets, nuclear energy faces significant obstacles: cheap, plentiful supplies of natural gas; tax credits and state mandates for renewable energy; market structures that fail to assign adequate value to the capacity and fuel diversity that nuclear generation represents; generally flat demand for electricity; and the trend toward distributed generation.

The list of challenges is long. But in the face of them, nuclear power is acquitting itself well. In constantly evolving power markets, nuclear power has been a remarkably stable contributor. Over the last quarter century, a near constant number of plants achieved a marginally increasing output through uprates and a focus on operations, supplying almost 20 percent of U.S. power demand at availability rates generally above 90 percent. And, while the much anticipated "nuclear renaissance" has not occurred, its arrival may simply be delayed.

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