Monday, August 22, 2011

US Deregulation Of Nuclear Power Plant Ownership Eliminated 40 Million Tons Of Carbon Emissions

Deregulation of the electricity markets in the 1990s allowed nuclear power plants to become 10 percent more efficient. The increase nuclear energy electricity production decreased carbon dioxide emissions by almost 40 million metric tons.

From "Deregulation, Consolidation, and Efficiency: Evidence from U.S. Nuclear Power" by Lucas W. Davis, Catherine Wolfram, NBER Working Paper No. 17341, August 2011:
For the first four decades of its existence the U.S. nuclear power industry was run by regulated utilities, with most companies owning only one or two reactors. Beginning in the late 1990s electricity markets in many states were deregulated and almost half of the nation’s 103 reactors were sold to independent power producers selling power in competitive wholesale markets. Deregulation has been accompanied by substantial market consolidation and today the three largest companies control more than one-third of all U.S. nuclear capacity. We find that deregulation and consolidation are associated with a 10 percent increase in operating efficiency, achieved primarily by reducing the frequency and duration of reactor outages. At average wholesale prices the value of this increased efficiency is approximately $2.5 billion annually and implies an annual decrease of almost 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

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