As the temperature climbs outside, so does America’s dependence on nuclear energy. Summer heat brings with it an increase in electricity consumption, as air conditions, fans, and other energy-needy appliances kick into overdrive. While we often take for granted the electricity to meet those needs, the climate control it provides can be a lifesaver in the dangerously hot parts of summer.
With so many needs stressing the electrical grid during the summer, it’s more important than ever that we can turn to safe, reliable, predictable power generation. Nuclear energy meets that need, providing outstanding reliability.
One of the key metrics in the power industry is the ability to provide consistent power output at high levels. This is measured through a plant’s capacity factor performance, which is a comparison between the maximum potential power generation and what is actually produced. There is a wide variety of factors that could affect capacity, such as a plant needing to shut down for refueling or maintenance. As an industry, nuclear has always excelled at capacity factor. It outperforms all other forms of generation in capacity, particularly during the summer.
There are a number of elements that bolster nuclear’s performance. Unlike other green energies, which depend on variable sources, such as sunlight or wind, the fuel for nuclear energy is very consistent. Once the fission process begins, nuclear stations generally operate at near 100 percent. Stations typically only intentionally shift power down for refueling or maintenance.
To avoid shutting down during times of peak need, nuclear stations work hard to schedule refueling and maintenance outages during off-peak times such as fall and spring. In addition to prudent scheduling, sites are becoming more and more efficient at completing work during outages to return the plan to 100 percent. Years of planning go into each refueling and maintenance outage, as planners produce a complex work schedule that maximizes the available resources on site. This meticulous approach has shortened the average length of a refueling outage by 50 percent. This means when nuclear plants do shut down, they are quickly back online and operating at maximum capacity.
It’s this commitment to safe, reliable electricity that helps to keep all of us cool during the summer.