The Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook for 2017, which was released Jan. 5, does not offer much good news for advocates of new nuclear power plants.
The report’s “reference case” foresees no new, unannounced nuclear capacity being added in the next several years “because of the combination of low natural gas prices, higher renewables penetration, low electricity load growth, and relatively high capital costs.”
New capacity additions are limited to reactors under construction from 2017 onward and to projected uprates at existing reactors.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Watts Bar 2 reactor in Tennessee came online this past fall while four new reactors are under construction in Georgia and South Carolina by groups led by subsidiaries of Southern (NYSE:SO) and SCANA (NYSE:SCG).
From 2018 through 2040, 4.7 GW of additional capacity at existing units is projected to come online, based on an assessment of the remaining uprate potential.
On the downside, a significant reduction in nuclear capacity occurs because of 6.4 GW of total announced retirements; 3 GW of projected retirements in 2019–20 to address near-term, market uncertainty; and approximately 10.6 GW of long-term retirements through 2040 to address the uncertainty of reactors achieving a subsequent license renewal.
As many nuclear plants reach the 60-year subsequent license renewal decision after 2040, retirements continue, with another 11.7 GW of nuclear capacity projected to retire by 2050, EIA said in the report.
All nuclear plant retirements other than those already announced were modeled as capacity reductions for the regional nuclear fleets (that is as generic derates), rather than as retirements of specific plants.