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July 07, 2015
Report by Brattle Economists Assesses Economic and Carbon Value of Nuclear Plants

A report released today by economists at The Brattle Group finds that the United States’ nuclear energy plants contribute $60 billion annually to gross domestic product (GDP), in addition to other economic and societal benefits.

Prepared for Nuclear Matters, the report estimates the value of the entire nuclear industry to the U.S. economy and its contribution to limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The authors find that the nuclear industry accounts for about 475,000 full-time jobs (direct and secondary). In addition, energy generated from nuclear plants prevents 573 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, worth an additional $25 billion annually if valued at the U.S. government’s estimate for the social cost of carbon.

“The economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy are often undervalued in national and state energy policy discussions,” said Dr. Mark Berkman, Brattle Principal and co-author of the report. “It is even more critical to consider the significant value of U.S. nuclear plants in a landscape where several factors threaten some nuclear facilities and could diminish the industry’s contribution to our electricity supply, the economy, and the environment.”

The report also finds that nuclear energy:

  • Helps keep electricity prices low – without it, retail electricity rates could increase by about 6 percent on average. Keeping electricity prices low is the primary means by which nuclear power boosts the economy.
  • Provides $10 billion in federal tax revenues and $2.2 billion in state tax revenues annually.
  • Avoids 650,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOX) and over one million tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions annually, together valued at $8.4 billion using the National Academy of Science’s externality estimates.

The report estimates the nuclear industry’s value using Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI), a widely-used dynamic input-output model of the U.S. economy, which for this study was linked with a simplified Brattle model of the U.S. electricity sector in order to better capture the dynamics of power markets and prices. By linking these models, the authors were able to measure the overall value of the U.S. economy with and without the nuclear industry, providing the most accurate picture of the fleet’s contribution to the economy. This approach explicitly subtracts off the economic value of the alternative generation that would be necessary in the absence of nuclear power, to find the incremental contribution of the nuclear industry.

“The Nuclear Industry’s Contribution to the U.S. Economy” was prepared by Dr. Berkman and Brattle Principal Dean Murphy. The report can be downloaded using the link below. Additional information can be found on Nuclear Matters' website.