U.S. nuclear industry strong safety performance in 2011

met availability goals more than 93 percent of the time. Nuclear power plants are built with multiple safety systems and backup power supplies so these systems are available, if needed, even when maintenance is being performed on a similar system or component. The three principal backup safety systems are two main cooling systems and backup power supplies used to respond in the event of unusual situations. Each system at every plant has an availability goal just shy of 100 percent due to maintenance and testing, and 95 percent of these backup safety systems met their goal in 2011, assuring that multiple layers of safety were in place as designed.

Industrial safety. NEI says that the nuclear industry is one of the U.S. safest working environments. U.S. facilities continued to post a low industrial accident rate in 2011 achieving a record 0.06 industrial accidents per 200,000 worker-hours, below the 2015 goal of 0.1. Statistics from other industries through 2010, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that it is safer to work at a nuclear power plant than in the manufacturing sector and even pharmacies and personal care stores, real estate, and financial sectors.

Reactor capability. The U.S. 104 reactors continued to operate at an efficient level — above other electricity sources. Last year marked the eighth time in the past ten years that the median capability factor has been at least 91.4 percent. Capacity factor, a related metric that measures total electricity generated as a percentage of year-round potential generation, was 89 percent in 2011, according to data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Unplanned reactor shutdowns. The 2011 total of sixty-two unplanned automatic or manual shutdowns was the lowest level achieved in the past twelve years.

Forced capability loss rate. The 2011 median value of 1.4 percent capability loss remained near historically best levels. Forced capability loss rate measures a plant’s outage time and power reductions that result from unplanned equipment failures, human error or other limiting conditions when the plant is expected to be generating electricity. The 2015 goal for this indicator is a median value of one percent. In the mid-1990s, the median value exceeded 5 percent, but it has been under two percent each year since 2001 and 1.5 percent or lower for seven consecutive years.

“These 2011 safety and performance indicators provide overwhelming evidence of the resiliency of our plants in confronting weather challenges and confirm the unwavering commitment of the industry’s dedicated men and women to safe and efficient operations,” NEI’s Pietrangelo said.