Climate Change

Published on November 7th, 2012 | by U.S. Energy Information Administration


High Nuclear Power Outages In 2012 (Driven By Global Warming–Fueled Sandy, Flooding, & Repair)

November 7th, 2012 by  


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on data from the Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report, and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory CommissionPower Reactor Status Reports
Note: Nuclear capacity in outage is estimated based on monthly generation data collected by EIA and daily availability data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Outages at U.S. nuclear power plants so far in 2012 are generally higher than in recent years because of extended forced outages at four nuclear power plants. U.S. nuclear reactor operators typically schedule refueling and maintenance outages during the spring and fall to help ensure that reactors are available to meet higher electric demand levels in the summer and winter. The increase in outages at the end of October came as some nuclear power reactors along the East Coast shut down because of safety concerns from Hurricane Sandy.

In 2012, four nuclear power plants had a total of more than four gigawatts of capacity in extended outages:

  • Southern California Edison’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) Units 2 and 3 (2,150 MW) near San Diego, California, have both been offline since January 31, 2012, as a precaution after a steam generator tube leak led to the discovery of excessive wear in the plant’s new steam generators. The units remain offline while the problems are evaluated and repairs are conducted, which tightened electricity supply for Southern California over the summer. An upcoming Today in Energy article will examine how the local market met demand without these two large units.
  • Progress Energy Florida’s Crystal River Unit 3 (860 MW) has been offline since September 2009 to repair the reactor containment. The plant’s future is uncertain at this point, and Progress’s handling of the Crystal River repairs became an issue in the company’s recent merger with Duke Energy.
  • Omaha Public Power District’s (OPPD) Fort Calhoun reactor (478 MW) has been offline since April 9, 2011, initially due to flooding on the Missouri River. A subsequent inspection by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission identified additional issues, and OPPD is working through a checklist of repairs and changes to be addressed before restarting the plant. In August, OPPD hired Exelon, a company that operates 17 U.S. nuclear plants, to manage day-to-day operations at Fort Calhoun.
  • At the Turkey Point plant outside Miami, Florida, Unit 3 (693 MW) went offline in late February 2012 for refueling, then underwent additional repairs through the summer and early fall, and only returned to service in late October.

Because of the low operational cost of producing power at nuclear facilities, these generators are nearly always dispatched whenever they are available. Outages thus have a direct and significant impact on nuclear power generation as well as the mix of total generation in an electric system.

This article was originally published on the website of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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-- the EIA collects, analyzes, and disseminates independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking, efficient markets, and public understanding of energy and its interaction with the economy and the environment.

  • freedomev

    ———-Progress actually broke the Crystal River plant that was working fine. And when nukes go down they lose 1Gw at once so more problematic that even wind variability.
    ————-But at about $.02kwhr for older paid for plants they are the lowest cost electric source.
    —————New old tech ones are far more expensive and hopefully those won’t be built and replaced by new generation 4-5 inherently safe smaller units that burn up the wastes capable of making bombs from of the present types should be cost effective.
    ———– For a customer home, building size wind, solar and cogen are the cheapest for them. Why is they are simple machines, more simple than a moped or home A/C unit that last 20-50 yrs so even if utilities get their electric for free they won’t be able to beat them.

    • Ronald Brak

      Actually the source of electricity with the lowest marginal cost is solar PV. This fact is causing problems for coal and gas power with solar sometimes supplying about 15% of total electricity demand in the middle of the day in Australia. We’ve shut down a lot of coal capacity as a result and reduced gas use. Wind power also have a very low marginal cost.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The Crystal River reactor normally produces 860 MW, but it has been offline since September 2009 when a refuelling and 20% upgrade outage began.

      During the upgrade, workers discovered a gap in the concrete containment dome [1]

      The NRC and found that the gap was caused by workers applying more pressure to the concrete than it could handle while cutting a hole through which to replace the steam generators.[2]

      Taking in the generators in through the equipment hatch was not an option as there was no room to maneuver the generators inside the hatch).

      The plant had originally been due to restart in April 2011 following the uprate, but in June 2011 Progress Energy said that it did not expect it to restart until 2014. Repair costs were estimated to be between $900 million and $1.3 billion.

      Repair costs are now estimated to be as much as $3.43 billion and could take 8 years to complete.


      The US Department of Energy – minimum LCOE of nuclear $0.04/kWh. Perhaps you could tell us where you find $0.02?


      ” new generation 4-5 inherently safe smaller units that burn up the wastes capable of making bombs from of the present types should be cost effective.”
      Pure speculation.

  • Bob_Wallace

    “Because of the low operational cost of producing power at nuclear facilities, these generators are nearly always dispatched whenever they are available. ”

    Turns out that operational costs for reactors are not as low as one might expect. Lower priced electricity from wind and natural gas is giving the nuclear industry headaches. One plant (Kewaunee, Wis) will be closing down a the end of the year as it can no longer compete against lower priced suppliers. Oyster Creek will close down in about six years rather than spend the money required to rebuild its cooling tower.

    “According to an internal industry document from the Electric Utility Cost Group, for the period 2008 to 2010, maintenance and fuel costs for the one-fourth of the reactor fleet with the highest costs averaged $51.42 per megawatt hour.

    That is perilously close to wholesale electricity costs these days.”

    There are discussions underway about not repairing San Onofre and Crystal River because the cost of repairs might make their electricity too expensive to sell.

  • Another hit comming nuclear and coals way. As it gets hotter, the temp of our rivers and cooling ponds raise. And those plants have to shut down, since there are maximun water temp rules (thank goodness).

    • freedomev

      Our biggest energy resource is rejected power or waste heat. If they would put geothermal style low temp heat engines on the steam turbine outputs and make power from that they could cut condensor costs by 50% while making alomost free power from any nuke, steam, NG plant..

      • Ronald Brak

        While my local fossil fuel plant could squeeze in a little extra efficiency with enough capital investment, it is definitely not worth the cost. They’d be better off putting solar panels on the roof or adding to the company’s collection of wind turbines.

        • freedomev

          Ronald your country seems to work on a different level of others which have 3-10x’s your costs you mention. Are your FF’s, plants being subsidized? I know yours is very rich in energy of coal, NG with little population to use it.
          Most geothermal plants have lower Delta-T’s than powerplant inputs to condensors have.
          Cheapest solar has been using solar collectors to boost coal NG powerplants displacing those fuels when available but your fuel prices may be lower than that needed to make it cost effective

          • Ronald Brak

            The local fossil fuel plant is combined cycle gas and there’s not a lot that can be done to get more electricity out of it per unit of gas burned. There are peak plants that could have their efficiency improved, but it’s not worth the expense since they might only be run 40 hours a year.

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