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Economic and Regulatory Factors Affecting the Maintenance of Nucleaer Power Plants

This paper examines the factors causing the escalation in the 1980s and' subsequent leveling off of nuclear power plant non-fuel Operating and Maintenance (O&M) costs. Over the period 1974-93, real (inflation-adjusted) non-fuel O&M costs escalated from about $23 to about $97 per kilowatt of installed capacity (kW). However, much of the escalation in costs occurred in the 1980s. Over the period 1975-87, real O&M costs escalated at an annual rate of about 11 percent. Since then, the annual growth rate in real O&M costs fell to about I percent. The research found that the escalation in O&M costs was primarily due to increased regulatory activity by the Nuclear Regulatory, Commission. More important, there is little evidence that the moderation in the growth in O&M costs was regulatory induced, but instead was due to changes in the economic incentives to improve plant performance.

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Energy Specializations: Nuclear Power – Markets and Prices; Nuclear Power – Policy and Regulation; Electricity – Policy and Regulation

JEL Codes:
L13 - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
E60 - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook: General

Keywords: Nuclear energy, power plant maintenance, energy policy, economic analysis, operating costs

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol17-No4-1

Published in Volume17, Number 4 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.