Nuclear figures in state’s clean energy future

February 17, 2020, 4:36PMNuclear News

A study released by Energy Northwest on January 30 concludes that more and different electricity sources, including nuclear, will be needed to maintain energy reliability and achieve a carbon-­free energy system in the state of Washington by 2045. The study used published conservation and efficiency projections and costs and examined the value of creating additional solar and wind facilities, as well as extending the operation of the Columbia nuclear power plant beyond 2043 and deploying small modular reactors.

“Completing this study is simply the first step in a much larger decision-­making process,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s chief executive officer. “Any decision to invest in new resources will take time and will only be done in the best interest of our member utilities, the people of Washington, and, of course, the environment.”

A study released by Energy Northwest on January 30 concludes that more and different electricity sources, including nuclear, will be needed to maintain energy reliability and achieve a carbon-­free energy system in the state of Washington by 2045. The study used published conservation and efficiency projections and costs and examined the value of creating additional solar and wind facilities, as well as extending the operation of the Columbia nuclear power plant beyond 2043 and deploying small modular reactors.

“Completing this study is simply the first step in a much larger decision-­making process,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s chief executive officer. “Any decision to invest in new resources will take time and will only be done in the best interest of our member utilities, the people of Washington, and, of course, the environment.”

Columbia: The boiling water reactor’s license is set to expire in December 2043.

Energy Northwest is a Richland, Wash.–based independent state agency comprising 27 member utilities from across the state of Washington. It operates the Columbia generating station, a 1,207-­MWe boiling water reactor plant located in Richland.

Energy Northwest commissioned the study from Energy + Environmental Economics, a San Francisco–based consulting group, which calculated energy capacity needs in the Northwest over the next several decades. “The motivation for this study is Governor Inslee’s Clean Energy Transformation Act, which set our state on a path to 100 percent clean electricity by 2045,” Sawatzke said.

The study concluded that “achieving even very deep electric emissions reductions in the region can be accomplished at manageable costs, provided firm capacity is available.” Firm baseload capacity could include the Columbia plant, SMRs, biomethane, or carbon capture and sequestration.

The value of Columbia’s generation ranges from $75 million per year in an 80 percent greenhouse-­gas (GHG) reduction scenario to $1.35 billion in a 100 percent GHG reduction scenario. Subsequent license renewal to allow Columbia to operate until 2063 would be sought in all scenarios.

SMRs are most valuable under very tight emissions reductions regimes, such as a 100 percent GHG reduction, because they lower costs compared to scenarios that lack firm baseload capacity and rely on renewables and storage. “The role of SMRs in the Northwest’s future electricity system depends on their cost, the stringency of regional emissions limits, and the availability of gas generators to provide firm capacity,” the report’s executive summary states.

Under different scenarios, the timing for potential SMR deployment shifts. When a nuclear production tax credit is available, SMRs are built earlier, with the first units coming online in 2040. SMRs would have their largest build-­out in cases where gas generation—powered by natural gas or biomethane—is not permitted. In these cases, the first SMRs are built by 2030, with at least 6.3 GW of SMRs deployed by 2045.

The executive summary of the report is available at <www.energy-northwest.com/Documents/E3%20Study%20Executive%20Summary%20final.pdf>.



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