- Nuclear outages spiked between June and August, according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, averaging 4.3 GW, or about 51% more than in 2015.
- It is an unclear comparison, however, as EIA pointed out that nuclear outages last year reached their lowest level since 2007. In August of 2015, for instance, outages totaled just 0.1 GW during four days.
- This year, summer outages were at their highest in June, reaching 9.9 GW—roughly 10% of total U.S. nuclear capacity on the 17th of that month. Nuclear facility outages averaged 6.2 GW for the month, compared with 4.4 GW of outages in July and 2.4 GW in August.
Nuclear energy is often touted for its reliability, but this summer paints a different picture for the industry according to EIA. The plants provide about 20% of the United States generation, but 10% of that capacity was offline at one point in June.
This spring, EIA data shows refueling outages averaged 29 days. "However, outages can last much longer when complicated maintenance is required," the agency wrote in a research note. In May, two nuclear units, Indian Point 2 in New York and Salem 1 in New Jersey, went offline and experienced outages that lasted for 100 and 101 days, respectively. Indian Point is currently at the center of contention between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) who wants to shut it down, and the owner, Entergy, who is trying to keep it open. The NRC earlier this year ordered a safety review of the plant.
Even so, Indian Point 2 resumed electricity generation in mid-June, and Salem 1 resumed generation in July.
Total U.S. nuclear capacity is now 98,672.0 MW, according to EIA's nuclear outage tracker. As of Sept. 2, the country has almost 4,200 MW offline for a total of about 4.25%.
Nuclear plants typically refuel every 18 to 24 months during fall or spring, and outage times have been declining. EIA said that in the early 1990s, refueling-related outages lasted about 12 weeks—these days, outages have been reduced to fewer than six weeks.