By Christine Harvey
Nuclear-power production in the U.S. is at the lowest seasonal levels in nine years as drought and heat force reactors from Ohio to Vermont to slow output.
Generation for the 104 plants in the U.S. fell 0.4 percent from yesterday to 94,171 megawatts, or 93 percent of capacity, the lowest level for this time of year since 2003, according to reports from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and data compiled by Bloomberg. The total is down 2.6 percent from the five-year average for today of 96,725 megawatts.
“We’ve had a fast decay of summer output this month and that corresponds to the high heat and droughts,” Pax Saunders, an analyst at Gelber & Associates in Houston, said. “Plants are not able to operate at the levels they can.”
FirstEnergy Corp. (FE) (FE)’s Perry 1 reactor in Ohio lowered production to 95 percent of capacity today because of above- average temperatures, while Entergy Corp. (ETR) (ETR)’s Vermont Yankee has limited output four times this month. Nuclear plants require sufficient water to cool during operation, and rivers or lakes may get overheated or fall in times of high temperatures and drought, according to the NRC.
Dry conditions have worsened in the past week, with at least 63.9 percent of the contiguous 48 U.S. states now affected by moderate to severe drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said today. That compares with 63.5 in the previous week.