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.
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.
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.