Snap: It’s cold outside

The value of nuclear energy during extreme weather

Most of the U.S. recently experienced a cold snap, including areas along the Carolinas coastline that received snow and ice. Extreme weather can cause the cost of electricity to rise as demand increases, and create a strain on the electrical grid. However, it’s exactly under these circumstances that nuclear energy shines and provides warmth for millions of customers in the Carolinas.

Electricity providers can experience strain when demand grows as it takes more power to keep homes, schools and businesses at comfortable temperatures. Nuclear plants provide large amounts of electricity that customers can count on during very cold temperatures. And, unlike the weather, they’re predictable. Take fuel costs, for example. John Keely, director of media relations for the Nuclear Energy Institute told the Washington Examiner, “Nuclear power, which produces 20 percent of America’s electricity, moderates the price risk by providing bulk supplies (of electricity) whose cost is not affected by short-term fuel prices. It also provides insurance against fuel supply interruptions, because our fuel is in the reactor vessel, ready for use.”

Robinson Nuclear Plant during the January snow
Robinson Nuclear Plant during the January snow

Nuclear energy is reliable, no matter the weather. In fact, nuclear shines in cold weather and was widely credited during the 2014 “polar vortex” with keeping the lights on. The nation’s nuclear fleet performed at 95 percent capacity, far outpacing any other form of generation. Part of what makes nuclear plants so resilient is that, for the most part, they are always on – operating uninterrupted day and night, year round. Our plants are able to meet the demands cold weather brings because of the skills of our highly trained nuclear employees with decades of safe operating experience and good performance by well-maintained equipment. In addition, each nuclear focuses on a cold weather checklist to ensure key components are unaffected as temperatures plummet. 

Today, we use nuclear energy to power about 50 percent of our Carolinas customers’ energy needs.

Being prepared for extreme weather conditions is just one more reason why customers can count on clean nuclear energy to continue keeping their homes, schools and businesses powered.

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