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Nuclear Energy Facilities Going Strong to Counter Arctic Deep Freeze

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Today's real-time electricity demand data from the nation's major power system operators shows nuclear energy's important role in generating large amounts of electricity to help stabilize the grid and keep people warm and businesses operating in the face of frigid arctic temperatures.

Most notably, in the PJM market encompassing much of the nation's densely populated mid-Atlantic region and large portions of the Midwest, data shows that nuclear energy facilities are providing about 27 percent of PJM's early afternoon electricity demand. The region's 33 nuclear power plants, 32 of which are operating at full capacity, are providing about 35,000 megawatts of generating capacity to help meet a regional demand load of about 127,000 megawatts.

In the New York ISO, nuclear energy facilities are providing about 25 percent of the midday demand. The region's six reactors, all of which are producing electricity at 100 percent capacity, are providing about 5,600 megawatts of capacity to meet demand load of about 22,600 megawatts.

In the New England ISO, four reactors—all operating at 100 percent capacity—also are meeting about one-quarter of the region's 18,600 megawatt load.

In the Midcontinent ISO spanning much of the Midwest, nuclear energy facilities are providing about 13,000 megawatts of power, or 14 percent of the region's demand load of 97,500 megawatts.

"During periods of extreme weather, nuclear energy's importance to the U.S. electric grid and to the nation becomes more apparent than ever. Our nuclear energy facilities reliably generate large amounts of electricity, and they do so without the price volatility that can hammer customers financially," said the Nuclear Energy Institute's vice president for policy development, planning, and supplier programs, Richard Myers.

As was the case during the 2014 polar vortex, nuclear power plants are operating at electric-sector leading levels of reliability during this frigid weather, demonstrating their resiliency and value to consumers when they are most needed. This should be yet another reminder to policymakers of the value of energy diversity and baseload power production in the electricity sector.

A report on potential nuclear plant closings in Illinois that several state agencies released Wednesday affirms the importance of the facilities during extreme weather.

"While competitive wholesale electricity markets do yield benefits to Illinois, they also fail to fully compensate nuclear plant operators for the value they provide to the market," notes the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. "For instance, nuclear power plant operators do not receive adequate incentives for the nearly uninterrupted flow of power that they provide—even though it was nuclear power plants like those in Illinois that prevented blackouts during last winter's polar vortex."

U.S. nuclear energy facilities for the past two decades have annually produced about one-fifth of U.S. electricity supplies, even as total electricity demand has increased significantly. Because of their sector-leading capacity factors (a measure of efficiency), they have done so even though the nation's 99 nuclear power plants constitute only about 10 percent of the nation's installed electric generating capacity.

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The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry's policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available at www.nei.org.

CONTACT: Contact NEI's media relations staff at media@nei.org, 202.739.8000 during business hours or 703.644.8805 after hours and weekends.

Source:Nuclear Energy Institute