NREL sees path to triple nuclear capacity by 2035, but there’s more to the story

September 19, 2022, 4:58PMNuclear News
(Photo: DOE)

Examining Supply-Side Options to Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2035 was written by research staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, so its reliance on solar and wind energy to decarbonize the grid by 2035 is not surprising. But that’s a big ask for any variable energy technology, especially if the nation’s largest source of clean power—nuclear energy—is relegated to a supporting role. Massive additions of solar and wind energy on the order of 2 TW would require a supporting infrastructure of new transmission lines, as well as batteries and hydrogen for daily and seasonal energy storage that would drive demand and capacity requirements higher.

Nearly 400 coal sites could be home to the next 250 GW of U.S. nuclear capacity

September 15, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
The Naughton coal-fired power plant near Kemmerer, Wyo., has two units set to retire in 2025 and be replaced by a TerraPower Natrium reactor. (Photo: PacifiCorp)

Nuclear power generation surpassed coal generation in the United States for the first time in 2020. As utilities continue to retire coal-fired plants, reusing the shuttered sites to host nuclear reactors could help the nation reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 and prove economically beneficial both for nuclear deployments and for the communities impacted by fossil fuel generation. That’s according to a Department of Energy report released this week, detailing how hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites that have recently retired or plan to close within the decade could be suitable for new nuclear power plants. Nuclear power’s high capacity factors mean those plants could deliver an added benefit—delivering more baseload power to the grid from the nameplate capacity replacement.

Four “clues” that Diablo Canyon will be replaced by Wyoming coal

April 8, 2022, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. (Photo: Doc Searls)

Officials in California are planning to replace the electricity produced by the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, scheduled to shut down in 2025, “mostly with Wyoming coal-fired generation.” That claim is made in a post on the Capitol Weekly website written by Gene Nelson, a cofounder of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP). Nelson writes that although state officials are trying to hide this plan from the public, CGNP uncovered it by detecting four obscure clues in California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) filings.

Germany: Coal tops wind energy in 2021, but there’s more to the story

September 23, 2021, 7:02AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Coal-fired plants fed the most power to Germany's electricity grid in the first half of 2021, while wind power dropped to its lowest level since 2018. As a September 13 article published on the German news site explained, the situation was blamed in part on a wind energy shortfall that is causing power price spikes across Europe.

TerraPower’s Natrium demo is headed to Wyoming

June 3, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News
A future TerraPower plant visualization. (Graphic: TerraPower)

TerraPower has a design for a sodium-cooled fast reactor and federal cost-shared demonstration funding from the Department of Energy. Its partner, PacifiCorp, has four operating coal-fired power plants in the state of Wyoming. On June 2, together with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and others, the companies announced plans to site a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming, with a specific site to be announced by the end of 2021.

Nuclear generation in U.S. tops coal power for first time in 2020

March 25, 2021, 3:08PMNuclear News
Source: EIA

A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report, Short-Term Energy Outlook, notes that in 2020, nuclear power plants generated more electricity in the United States than coal-fired plants for the first time ever. Last year also marked the first time that coal generation was not the first or second largest U.S. electricity producer in more than 70 years.

Two factors led to the decrease in coal-fired generation, according to the EIA: one is the drop in the number of operating coal-fired plants, and the other is the lower utilization of those remaining coal-fired plants as the nation moves toward cleaner energy production. Coal, however, is not to be abandoned yet, according to the EIA.

The next couple of years will see changes in energy production, according to the EIA report. The EIA believes that "increases in natural gas prices will make coal more competitive in the electric power sector. This expected increase in coal's utilization more than offsets the upcoming retirement of 2.8 GW of coal capacity in 2021 and another 8.5 GW in 2022," based on information reported to the EIA by coal-fired plant owners and developers.

The cost of unreliability

October 13, 2020, 12:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

In the September issue of Nuclear News, I asked if you’ve ever wondered why nuclear isn’t commonly considered the choice for clean power production. In that column and in August’s, I provided some information about the cleanliness and safety of nuclear for your use as you make the case for this clean energy source to friends and neighbors. This month, let’s talk reliability.