Lucas Davis and Catherine Wolfram “Deregulation, Consolidation, and Efficiency: Evidence from U.S. Nuclear Power” (August 2011) (Revised October 2012) (Revised version published in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 4(4): 194-225, October 2012) | WP-217R | Blog Post

For the first four decades of its existence the U.S. nuclear power industry was run by regulated utilities, with most companies owning only one or two reactors. Beginning in the late 1990s electricity markets in many states were deregulated and almost half of the nation’s 103 reactors were sold to independent power producers selling power in competitive wholesale markets. Deregulation has been accompanied by substantial market consolidation and today the three largest companies control more than one-third of all U.S. nuclear capacity. We find that deregulation and consolidation are associated with a 10 percent increase in operating efficiency, achieved primarily by reducing the frequency and duration of reactor outages. At average wholesale prices the value of this increased efficiency is approximately $2.5 billion annually and implies an annual decrease of almost 40 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.