IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Future of Nuclear Power in the United States: Economic and Regulatory Challenges


  • Paul L. Joskow


This paper examines the economic and regulatory challenges that must be faced by potential investors in new nuclear power plants in the United States. The historical development of the existing fleet of over 100 nuclear plants and their recent performance history are discussed. The pattern of re-licensing of existing plants and the implications for the role of the extended operation of the existing fleet in the overall electricity supply portfolio over the next 50 years is examined. The economic competitiveness of investments in new nuclear power plants compared to investments in alternative base load technologies is discussed under a variety of assumptions about construction costs, fuel costs, competitive and economic regulatory environments and various levels of carbon emissions prices affected competing fossil-fueled technologies. Federal government efforts to facilitate investment in new nuclear power plants, including streamlined licensing procedures and financial incentive provided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 are discussed. These regulatory changes and financial incentives improve the economic competitiveness of nuclear power. First mover plants that can benefit from federal financial incentives are most likely to be built in states that continue to regulate generating plants based on cost-of-service principles, transferring construction cost and operating performance risks to consumers, and where there is room on existing sites to build additional nuclear capacity. Once federal financial incentives come to an end lower and more stable construction costs combined with carbon emissions charges are likely to be necessary to make investments in new nuclear plants significantly more attractive than investments in pulverized coal plants. Unresolved waste disposal policies and local opposition to new nuclear plants are likely to represent barriers to investment in new nuclear power plants in some areas of the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul L. Joskow, 2006. "The Future of Nuclear Power in the United States: Economic and Regulatory Challenges," Working Papers 0619, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:mee:wpaper:0619

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mee:wpaper:0619. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sharmila Ganguly). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.