Today, Nebraskans are benefitting from the decisions made by NPA members in the 1960s and 1970s to build nuclear power plants. There are two nuclear generators in our state: the Cooper Nuclear Station, owned and operated by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), and the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Station, owned and operated by Omaha Public Power District (OPPD).
Cooper and Fort Calhoun supplied 31% of the electricity used by Nebraskans in 2010.
These two plants provided safe, clean, reliable, and low-cost electricity to Nebraskans across the state. Nebraska’s nuclear generators run all day, every day, providing Nebraskans with the electricity they need in their homes and businesses. Nuclear power is among the state’s lowest-cost electricity options.
In late 2010, NPPD received a 20-year extension of its operating license at Cooper, which means the plant can continue operating until 2034. It began generating electricity in 1974. Cooper can generate up to 810 megawatts (MW) of electricity – enough to supply the electric needs of the Lincoln and Grand Island areas on a hot Nebraska summer day. More information about CNS is available from NPPD.
OPPD’s Fort Calhoun plant began generating electricity in 1973. A one-unit, 484 megawatt generator, Fort Calhoun’s operating license was extended by 20 years in 2003, which will keep that generator running until 2033.
Today, more than 100 nuclear generators are operating in the U.S. Those plants provide about 20% of our nation’s electricity.
No utility has built a new nuclear generator in the U.S. in more than 30 years. Like all ways of generating electricity, nuclear power has its strengths and drawbacks. Once built, nuclear generators produce electricity very inexpensively. Despite the March 2011 problems at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, nuclear technology is safe. U.S. nuclear power plants are subject to intense regulations and oversight by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The entire industry makes the safety of its workers and the public its highest priority.
Members of NPA are also members of nuclear power organizations around the world, and those groups are studying what happened in Japan. They plan to apply lessons learned to their own nuclear generators. Nuclear power plants produce clean electricity—no emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, or soot—which is increasingly important factors in today’s environmentally conscious society. And nuclear generators emit no carbon dioxide, an important benefit as power companies and customers think more about global climate change.
However, the cost of building a new nuclear generator is expensive—$5 billion or more, which is several times more expensive than generators that burn coal or gas, or generating electricity from renewable resources like wind, solar, and hydro. And, despite decades of effort, the U.S. still has no centralized place to safely store and decontaminate the spent fuel from nuclear power plants.
So do Nebraska’s utilities plan to build any new nuclear generators? Not at this time. One utility, Southern Company, is in the process of building a new nuclear generator in Georgia. Utilities in Texas and South Carolina also want to build new nuclear generators, but they are being cautions because of the costs.