EIA says uprates equaled six new nuclear plants since 1977

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved more than 6,500 MW of power uprates since 1977, or roughly the equivalent of six new nuclear power plants.

EIA made the observation in data posted on its website July 17. NRC has previously offered similar reports on its own website. EIA said most of the power uprates at nuclear plants have already been implemented.

Statistics on uprates are current as of July 10, EIA said.

Currently, there are 104 commercial nuclear reactors in the United States. In 2011, these plants provided 786 billion KWH of electricity, or nearly one-fifth of total generation. The electrical output of the nuclear fleet can be increased either by constructing new plants or by ‘uprating’ operating plants. Uprating generally involves physically modifying the plant to increase its generating capacity.

Since the first requests in 1977, the NRC has approved 144 uprates. Uprates are categorized based on the magnitude of the increase in electrical output as well as the manner in which the increase is achieved.

There are three types of uprates.

  • Measurement uncertainty uprates, or MURs, generally result in an increase in electric output of less than 2%.
  • Stretch uprates increase electric output between 3% and 7% and don’t involve major plant modifications. Older components may be replaced with newer designs and modern materials. These stretch uprates are typically moderate-cost uprates.
  • Finally there are extended uprates that can range from 7% to 20%. “Extended uprates generally involve significant plant modifications and may take years to fully implement. To date, the NRC has approved 26 extended uprates, totaling about 2,883 MWe,” EIA said.

All but six of the 104 U.S. reactors have applied for an uprate, and only one reactor, Vermont Yankee, which is run by an Entergy (NYSE: ETR) subsidiary, sought and was approved for a full 20% extended uprate, EIA said.

Currently, the NRC is reviewing applications for seven extended and nine MUR uprates. If approved, these uprates would add about 1,140 MW of nuclear capacity, EIA said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.