Nuclear Power's Future Role in a Decarbonized U.S. Electricity System

Caitlin Murphy, Wesley Cole, John Bistline, Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Brent Dixon, Erich Eschmann, Jonathan Ho, Augustine Kwon, Laura Martin, Christopher Namovicz, Andrew Sowder

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This study explores the potential future role of nuclear energy in a decarbonized U.S. electricity system through a multi-model comparison approach. We employ four state-of-the-art CEMs with native and harmonized input assumptions, layered with different policy and technology trajectories. Comparing outputs across models, technology assumptions, and policy scenarios informs model understanding, interpretation, and development decisions. Under current policies, models differ in their projections for nuclear retirements, but nuclear power plants consistently run with high capacity factors and new builds only occur in scenarios with very low nuclear costs. String power sector carbon policies drive models to align in keeping existing nuclear capacity and employing nuclear plant flexibility, but they may not be enough to bring new nuclear capacity online in the absence of significant cost declines. Therefore, significant economic deployment of new nuclear capacity requires both a stringent electric sector CO2 policy and very low cost assumptions for new nuclear. While these scenarios should not be interpreted as predictions, they are informative for understanding differing model assessments of the relative competitiveness of nuclear energy under a range of policy and technology conditions.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages36
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-84451


  • capacity expansion
  • multi-model
  • nuclear
  • scenario analysis


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