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New EIA study reports drop in nuclear power plant outages

The U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows that unplanned nuclear plant outages averaged more than 90 outages in 2000, peaking at nearly 120 in 2003, and since steadily fell to 34 so far this year.

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A new study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates that daily capacity outages at U.S. nuclear power plants averaged 3.1 GW from June 1 to Aug. 31, 2021. This average was reportedly 22% less than the 4 GW daily capacity outage average of summer 2020, according to the EIA.

The length of planned refueling and maintenance outages continue to drop as utility planners and contractors get more efficient at planning the thousands of tasks involved during the scheduled breaks. Those planned outages averaged nearly 45 days each in 2000, and now usually take 32 days or less. The length of planned U.S. nuclear power plant refueling outages has reportedly been cut by more than 10 days over the past 20 years, while the number of unplanned outages has fallen by more than half.

According to Power Engineering, unplanned outages – which includes power plant retirements – occur because of equipment failures, operational conditions or due to severe weather. The EIA data shows that unplanned nuclear plant outages averaged more than 90 outages in 2000, peaking at nearly 120 in 2003 and since steadily fell to 34 so far this year.

The EIA reports that nuclear power still generates 20% of the U.S.’s electricity and more than half of the nation’s carbon-free electricity.

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