Jan 8, 2018

What's ailing nuclear power

Ben Geman, author of Generate

MIT electricity expert Jesse Jenkins is out with a new paper that looks to quantify the different forces that are jointly pushing down electricity prices enough to make nuclear power increasingly uneconomic.

  • The paper looks at the trajectory of wholesale power prices in the PJM Interconnection from 2008–2016. The region covers all or part of 13 states — including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — that are together home to about a third of the U.S. nuclear fleet.

The big takeaway: The 72% decline in market prices for natural gas is by far the biggest culprit, with flat power consumption and the growth of wind power playing lesser roles (with wind only a factor in the western parts of PJM).

  • "In short, cheap natural gas may be killing the profitability of nuclear power producers in the PJM Interconnection, but stagnant electricity demand and expectations of future growth in wind generation going forward may be accomplices," Jenkins writes.
  • Why it matters: Nuclear is the largest source of carbon-free power. The research comes as a number of plants are facing retirement in coming years; several states are looking at how to keep them afloat; and, as noted above, the DOE is pushing for controversial new wholesale power market rules that would aid nukes in some markets.
  • More: A detailed summary of the research is available here.

Go deeper

HBCUs are missing from the discussion on venture capital's diversity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Venture capital is beginning a belated conversation about its dearth of black investors and support of black founders, but hasn't yet turned its attention to the trivial participation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as limited partners in funds.

Why it matters: This increases educational and economic inequality, as the vast majority of VC profits go to limited partners.

Unemployment rate falls to 13.3% in May

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May, with 2.5 million jobs gained, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The far better-than-expected numbers show a surprising improvement in the job market, which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The difficulty of calculating the real unemployment rate

Data: U.S. Department of Labor; Note: Initial traditional state claims from the weeks of May 23 and 30, continuing traditional claims from May 23. Initial PUA claims from May 16, 23, and 30, continuing PUA and other programs from May 16; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The shocking May jobs report — with a decline in the unemployment rate to 13.3% and more than 2 million jobs added — destroyed expectations of a much worse economic picture.

Why it matters: Traditional economic reports have failed to keep up with the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and have made it nearly impossible for researchers to determine the state of the U.S. labor market or the economy.