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U.S. nuclear power generation declined for the second straight year, according to the latest reporting from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Output from the country’s nuclear fleet totaled 778 million MWh in 2021, a 1.5% decline from 2020.

Six nuclear units with a total capacity of 4,736 MW have retired since the end of 2017. In 2021, Entergy shut down the nuclear reactor for Unit 3 at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, New York. The decommissioning of Indian Point’s final operating reactor was announced several years prior following pressure from numerous political groups.

Indian Point’s first unit entered commercial operation in the early 1960s. Unit 2 went offline permanently in 2020.

Despite the retirements, Nuclear’s share of U.S. electricity generation across all sectors in 2021 closely mirrored its average share in the previous decade: 19%.

Source U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

In the coming years, three more reactors with a combined 3,009 MW of capacity are scheduled to retire Michigan’s Palisades is expected to retire later in 2022, and California’s Diablo Canyon is slated to retire one generating unit in 2024 and a second in 2025.

Although output has been increasing from renewable energy sources and natural gas plants, EIA noted the U.S. nuclear fleet continues to operate at high and consistent utilization rates. Additionally, the Biden Administration has identified the nation’s fleet of 93 reactors as an important clean energy resource.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking input on a newly established $6 billion program aimed at supporting the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors.

The Civil Nuclear Credit Program (CNC) was born out of the infrastructure bill signed into law in November 2021. It allows owners and operators of commercial reactors to apply for and bid on credits to support their continued operations.

Credits are intended to be allocated over a four-year period beginning on the date of selection.

A recent Associated Press survey of the energy policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that about two-thirds said that nuclear, in one fashion or another, will help take the place of fossil fuels. Roughly one-third of the states had no plans to incorporate nuclear power in their green energy goals

Two nuclear generating units remain under construction in Georgia. Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are expected to come online by the end of 2023. Each unit is rated at 1,114 MW, and they will be the first nuclear units to come online in the United States since 2016. Numerous cost overruns and construction problems have delayed the project to this point.

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