Both current and advanced nuclear are among the clean energy sources that will be required to reach the Biden administration’s declared goal of a zero-carbon U.S. electricity sector by 2035, concludes a new report from the Department of Energy.
On the Path to 100% Clean Electricity, released last week, features a list of 10 actions the authors consider necessary for meeting that climate commitment. The full report can be accessed here.
Actions: Commenting on the first of their proposed actions, “maintain the existing clean generation and storage fleet,” the authors write, “Clean generation—nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar, and more—is currently responsible for approximately 40 percent of the nation’s electricity supply and forms the foundation on which clean energy growth can build. Although wind and solar generation is growing rapidly, nuclear and hydropower provide almost two-thirds of clean electricity generation and are the primary source of the clean electricity serving baseload. Nuclear plants, in particular, regularly operate for more than 90 percent of the year and can provide electricity in extreme situations when other resources may not be available. … Though all plants age and eventually retire, retirements of sources of clean generation increase the amount of new capacity needed to reach 100 percent, increasing costs and deployment challenges in some cases. In the near term, ensuring that the current fleet of nuclear reactors and hydropower facilities continue to operate will reduce new deployment needs.”
The importance of advanced nuclear is recognized as well in the report, in remarks regarding the second action, “rapidly increase deployment of established clean generation and storage technologies.” The report states, “To reach 100 percent clean electricity, an immediate increase of clean power and storage deployment rates is needed, followed by continued rapid growth in the pace of deployment. This growth rate reflects a significant acceleration of historical trends in clean energy capacity additions. This would rely on clean technologies that are already cost competitive and being deployed at scale, including wind and solar, and evolve over time to include a range of technologies, including advanced nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration, and other forms of renewable energy.”