Report: Losing Nuclear Would Blight Economy

The nation’s 99 nuclear plants produce about 19% of the country’s power, but they also contribute about $60 billion annually to gross domestic product (GDP), a new Brattle Group report finds. 

The report, “The Nuclear Industry’s Contribution to the U.S. Economy,” prepared for pro-nuclear group Nuclear Matters says, “Several factors are at play that may threaten some nuclear generators.” These include “limited recognition of carbon as a social cost, as well as market factors such as low natural gas prices, flat electricity demand growth, and transmission constraints.”

Among the report’s findings are that the U.S. nuclear industry accounts for 475,000 full-time direct and secondary jobs; it is responsible for nearly $10 billion annually in additional federal tax revenues, and $2.2 billion in additional state tax revenues.

Without nuclear plants, the nation would be forced to rely more heavily on existing and new natural gas-fired power plants and to a lesser extent coal plants. The Brattle Group’s scenario suggests that in the absence of nuclear, natural gas–generation would increase by almost half, from 26% to 39% of total energy in 2015, and coal generation would increase by 16%, from 38% to 44% of total generation.

But this would mean higher electricity prices: Wholesale prices would vary by region, but rise 10% higher on average, while retail prices would rise about 6%, the report says. The Northwest Power Pool would see wholesale price increases of about 34%, while ERCOT and California would only see increases of 3% and 2% respectively.

“Large-scale renewable energy would probably not substitute significantly for nuclear; intermittent renewable generation is not a direct substitute for the baseload profile of nuclear,” it says.

The report’s overview of the nuclear sector’s current state notes that 62 nuclear plants comprising 99 reactors represent 100 GW and almost 800 million MWh of annual generation.

It also sheds light on how unevenly the nation’s reactors are distributed across the nation. PJM has the largest share of nuclear generation in the U.S. (31%), followed by VACAR (15%), and MISO (13%).

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)