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​SMR Start Economic Analysis
September 14, 2017

This report evaluates the market opportunities, commercialization timeframe, and cost competitiveness of light water small modular reactors (SMRs) in the U.S. The analysis concludes that SMRs are commercially viable and needed in the marketplace by the mid-2020s.

The market needs SMRs: SMRs will be needed as large retirements of baseload generation and an increase in intermittent renewables have negative impacts on the grid. SMRs can better match demand growth at lower up front capital costs, provide flexibility to integrate with renewables and repower retired fossil plant sites, and can generate highly resilient baseload power. SMRs will be even more important if the demand for carbon-free generation continues to grow.

  The Economics of Small Modular Reactors
 SMR Start


Energy Systems, Strategies, Assessments, and Integration (ESSAI)

Economic and Market Challenges Facing the U.S. Nuclear Commercial Fleet - Cost and Revenue Study

September 2017

The Kewaunee, Vermont Yankee and Fort Calhoun nuclear power plants were retired early for economic and financial reasons. Early retirement was proposed for Clinton and Quad Cities in Illinois and for Nine Mile Point, Fitzpatrick, and Ginna in New York. The owner of other units, including Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Palisades in Michigan has announced near term shutdown dates. Other nuclear power plants, including Davis-Besse, Prairie Island, and Three Mile Island Unit 1, have been identified as facing financial stress that may lead to early retirement. In addition, other units, including Indian Point in New York and Diablo Canyon in California, are facing political pressures to terminate operations prematurely.

These early retirements of operating nuclear power plants will mean the loss of a large amount of zero-emission electricity, inconsistent with the goal of reducing carbon emissions and other air pollutants in the electricity sector. In addition, significant negative effects of these closures are being, and will be experienced, on local economies, electricity grid resilience, fuel diversity and United States world leadership on nuclear issues, including nonproliferation and safety standards.

Since 2016, several studies have been published exploring the causes and effects of current electricity market structures on the economics of the operating nuclear power plant fleet. These studies generally concluded that deregulated electricity markets were reacting to the unexpectedly low costs of natural gas, and various incentives being provided to variable renewable sources, in ways that were causing currently operating nuclear plants to become uneconomic.

This report builds upon an earlier Energy Systems, Strategies, Assessments, and Integration (ESSAI) report titled "The Economic and Market Challenges Facing the U.S. Nuclear Commercial Fleet", issued September 2016, Energy Systems Strategic Assessment Institute, Idaho National Laboratory (INL) (https://gain.inl.gov/Shared%20Documents/EconomicsNuclear-Fleet.pdf).


Economic and Market Challenges facing the U.S. Nuclear Commercial Fleet-ESSAI Cost and Revenue Study Sept 2017


September 2016

Growing attention is being directed toward nuclear power plant economics, with the distinct likelihood of shuttering currently operating plants in the not-to-distant future. The Department of Energy is leading efforts to characterize and understand the causes of the economic challenges, and devise real-world solutions assuring clean and reliable energy from nuclear power is available for the American public.

Two recent reports (linked below) prepared for the Department highlight and address these challenges. The first report, Summit on Improving the Economics of America's Nuclear Power Plants, 
represents a summary of the engaging dialog occurring at the May 19, 2016 Summit on Improving the Economics of America’s Nuclear Power Plants. A second report, Economic and Market Challenges Facing the U.S. Nuclear Commercial Fleet, released in September 2016 provides detailed analyses quantifying the gap between revenue from electricity production and the costs of operating and maintaining nuclear power plants. These reports may be useful to those interested in working to retain the clean energy source of nuclear power.  

Summit on Improving the Economics of America's Nuclear Power Plants-ESSAI

Economic and Market Challenges Facing the U.S. Nuclear Commercial Fleet-ESSAI