KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (Jan. 30, 2015) - Exelon Generation's nuclear power plants in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions ran at full capacity during the recent winter storm that dropped more than two feet of snow in some parts of New England, the company said today.
Exelon's seven plants in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania operated without interruption throughout the storm, producing 10,832 megawatts of electricity per hour, enough to power more than ten million homes and businesses.
"In extreme weather, nuclear plants have a distinct advantage over other generation sources," said Bryan Hanson, Exelon Nuclear president and chief nuclear officer. "Importing fuel can be challenging or even impossible in dangerous weather conditions. Our nuclear plants have the necessary fuel on site and are designed to withstand winter's worst."
Nuclear generation has proven highly reliable in the face of snow, ice and prolonged periods of freezing temperatures. During last year's polar vortex, nuclear facilities performed at a 95 percent capacity factor, a key measure of reliability. Demand for energy surged and grid operators struggled to keep up. Many non-nuclear generation sources had high forced-outage rates or were otherwise unable to perform. A number of natural gas and coal plants across the country were unable to access fuel or operate continuously.
Nuclear power plants are engineered to run uninterrupted for up to two years. Beyond that, highly skilled plant workers prepare nuclear facilities months in advance for the worst conceivable winter storm by reviewing plant systems and identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities. When extreme weather hits, procedures are in place to increase equipment monitoring to minimize or eliminate weather-related problems.
During extreme weather conditions, nuclear plants also provide critical redundancy to the electrical system. Nuclear stations are usually the largest generation facilities in an electrical system's interconnected network, and grid operators count on nuclear's "always-on" base load power as demand increases, especially when other units go off line unexpectedly. Nuclear facilities are also key to grid restoration in the unlikely event of a system blackout.
Exelon Generation operates the largest fleet of nuclear plants in the nation. The fleet consists of 23 reactors at 14 locations in Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.