Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 30, 2016. It has been updated and republished.
Out of sight, out of mind. Unless you work for an electric utility, you probably don’t think a lot about where your electricity comes from. But, you should.
More than a quarter of the electricity Duke Energy generates comes from a unique source – nuclear energy. While it may not always be obvious, nuclear energy has many tangible advantages. Here are five ways nuclear energy benefits Duke Energy customers and the communities where our nuclear plants operate.
1. Power when you need it
When you flip a switch, it’s easy to take for granted that the light comes on. While there are many factors that contribute to the reliability of the electrical grid, dispatchable or baseload power plays a critical role. Nuclear power plants provide electricity to power our basic needs independent of the time of day or the weather.
2. Clean air
Many fuel sources, like coal and natural gas, can provide large amounts of energy around the clock, but nuclear is the largest source of clean air energy. During power generation, nuclear plants create no greenhouse gas emissions nor do they emit other gases that contribute to the formation of acid rain.
3. Power where you need it
Nuclear plants have a small land-use footprint, the smallest of all forms of energy generation in fact. A typical 1,000-megawatt nuclear plant only needs about 2.4 square kilometers or just under one square mile of land to operate. This means they can be located close to where the electricity they produce will be used, requireing less infrastructure and money to transmit power to those who need it.
4. Local investment
Each of Duke Energy’s six nuclear stations supports small communities in the Carolinas by providing higher than typical wages for more than 1,400 workers on average. During planned refueling and maintenance outages, the number of workers can double, giving communities an extra economic boost. Not only do nuclear workers spend money in the community, but they also donate their time to support local causes.
5. Efficient operations
Nuclear energy facilities have a high capacity factor meaning they generate power most of the time. That makes them the most efficient electricity generating source. Last year, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet announced intentions to pursue second license renewal while also marking it's 20th consecutive year with a capacity factor greater than 90 percent. To put this in perspective, the capacity factor was 47.5 percent for U.S. coal plants last year and 34.8 percent for utility scale wind farms, according to the Energy Information Administration.