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Title: Economic Conditions and Factors Affecting New Nuclear Power Deployment

This report documents work performed in support of the US Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Advanced Small Modular Reactor (AdvSMR) program. The report presents information and results from economic analyses to describe current electricity market conditions and those key factors that may impact the deployment of AdvSMRs or any other new nuclear power plants. Thus, this report serves as a reference document for DOE as it moves forward with its plans to develop advanced reactors, including AdvSMRs. For the purpose of this analysis, information on electricity markets and nuclear power plant operating costs will be combined to examine the current state of the nuclear industry and the process required to successfully move forward with new nuclear power in general and AdvSMRs in particular. The current electricity market is generally unfavorable to new nuclear construction, especially in deregulated markets with heavy competition from natural gas and subsidized renewables. The successful and profitable operation of a nuclear power plant (or any power plant) requires the rate at which the electricity is sold to be sufficiently greater than the cost to operate. The wholesale rates in most US markets have settled into values that provide profits for most operating nuclear powermore » plants but are too low to support the added cost of capital recovery for new nuclear construction. There is a strong geographic dependence on the wholesale rate, with some markets currently able to support new nuclear construction. However, there is also a strong geographic dependence on pronuclear public opinion; the areas where power prices are high tend to have unfavorable views on the construction of new nuclear power plants. The use of government-backed incentives, such as subsidies, can help provide a margin to help justify construction projects that otherwise may not seem viable. Similarly, low interest rates for the project will also add a positive margin to the economic analysis. In both cases, the profitable price point is decreased, making more markets open to profitable entry. Overall, the economic attractiveness of a nuclear power construction project is not only a function of its own costs, but a function of the market into which it is deployed. Many of the market characteristics are out of the control of the potential nuclear power plant operators. The decision-making process for the power industry in general is complicated by the short-term market volatility in both the wholesale electricity market and the commodity (natural gas) market. Decisions based on market conditions today may be rendered null and void in six months. With a multiple-year lead time, nuclear power plants are acutely vulnerable to market corrections.« less
  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
RC0116000; NERC014
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States