|A recent snapshot of the price of gas in Maine: $3.539 per gallon for 87 octane regular.|
In the immediate wake of the situation in Japan, it may be helpful to consider a snapshot of the U.S. nuclear power industry. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (1 page PDF), in 2009 the U.S. nuclear industry was composed of 104 generators with an aggregate nameplate capacity of 106,618 megawatts. This represents about 9.5% of the nation's 1,121,686 MW total installed nameplate capacity. Electricity derived from nuclear power thus ranks third in nameplate capacity behind natural gas (459,803 MW) and coal (338,723 MW).
Nuclear power plays an even bigger role in the U.S. electric industry on a megawatt-hour basis. Remember that megawatts of capacity refer to how much energy could be produced at a given moment if all the units ran full-bore, while megawatt-hours of energy refer to how much energy was actually produced. In 2010, nuclear power produced 981,815 thousand MWh out of a total 4,120,028 thousand MWh produced -- or about 24% of the nation's total electric generation. This is due in part to the high capacity factor of nuclear power, meaning that nuclear plants tend to run near their full capacity and have minimal downtime.
Let's keep Japan in our thoughts and hope the people and the nation recover well and quickly.