Support for nuclear energy grows with climate change concerns

July 30, 2021, 9:12AMNuclear NewsAnn S. Bisconti

Public discourse on energy and climate increasingly includes nuclear energy, but how has that affected public opinion? The answer: a lot. A national public opinion survey conducted in May found that support for nuclear energy has rebounded, and politics, in part, may offer a window into why. For example, now Biden and Trump voters support nuclear energy about equally. Trump voters care more about affordable and reliable electricity. Biden voters care more about climate change, and their support is driven by perception of need. Perception of need is boosted by climate change, recent energy supply problems, and Democratic leadership endorsements. The importance of Democratic leadership endorsements is shown in the Obama bump in 2010 and the Biden bump in 2021. In both cases, the increase in overall support for nuclear is largely attributable to increased support among Democrats.

New video stars nuclear: “The safest energy source known to man”

July 27, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
This still image from “The Green Atom” highlights how Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear plants has resulted in electricity that is twice as expensive as in neighboring France. (Source: Kite and Key)

“You know what power source is more dangerous than nuclear? Literally, all of them. When you add up industrial accidents and the effects of pollution, nuclear is safer than coal or petroleum or natural gas.”

Report: Extreme weather is affecting nuclear power’s reliability

July 27, 2021, 7:10AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new analysis shows that hurricanes and typhoons have become the leading causes of nuclear plant outages, at least in North America and South and East Asia, tech website Ars Technica reports in the article “Nuclear power’s reliability is dropping as extreme weather increases.” The analysis was written by Ali Ahmad, an energy policy and economics scholar at the Harvard Kennedy School, and was published in the July issue of the online journal Nature Energy.

China moves closer to completion of world’s first thorium reactor

July 22, 2021, 6:58AMANS Nuclear Cafe
China’s molten salt loop experiment. (Photo: Thorium Energy World)

China is moving ahead with the development of an experimental reactor that would be the first of its kind in the world and “could prove key to the pursuit of clean and safe nuclear power,” according to an article in New Atlas.

NRC discontinues consideration of 40-year license renewals

July 6, 2021, 9:34AMNuclear News
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters (photo: U.S. NRC)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has halted efforts to consider allowing U.S. nuclear power plant owners to request 40-year license renewals for their facilities, the agency announced on Facebook and Twitter on July 2. Currently, the maximum potential operating lifespan for a plant is 80 years: 40 years with the original license, 20 more with an initial license renewal, and another 20 with a second renewal.

American Nuclear Society Cautions Congress Against China Ban

July 1, 2021, 9:07AMPress Releases

LaGrange Park, IL – The American Nuclear Society (ANS) urges Congress to oppose any amendment to H.R. 3524 – Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement Act – that bans U.S.-China nuclear energy cooperation. The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) is slated to markup H.R. 3524 on June 30.

No deal yet in Illinois for Exelon nuclear plants

June 17, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Illinois Senate adjourned on June 15 without calling a comprehensive energy regulatory reform package for a vote, Capitol News Illinois reported. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D., Chicago) and Senate president Don Harmon (D., Oak Park) said afterward that they expect a vote to happen sometime this summer as negotiations continue.

Meredith Angwin: The electric grid and reliability

June 14, 2021, 1:25PMNuclear NewsRick Michal

In her career as a chemist, Meredith Angwin headed projects that lowered pollution and increased reliability on the electric grid. Her work included pollution control for nitrogen oxides in gas-­fired combustion turbines and corrosion control in geothermal and nuclear systems.

Angwin, an ANS member, was one of the first women to be a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, leading projects in nuclear energy and renewables.

In the past decade, Angwin began to study and take part in grid oversight and governance. For four years, she served on the Coordinating Committee for the Consumer Liaison Group associated with ISO New England, her local grid operator. It was during this time that she realized what a maze of confusion surrounded grid rules and grid management.

Support for nuclear energy grows with climate change concerns

June 10, 2021, 3:09PMNuclear NewsAnn S. Bisconti

Public discourse on energy and climate increasingly includes nuclear energy, but how has that affected public opinion? The answer: a lot. A national public opinion survey conducted in May found that support for nuclear energy has rebounded, and politics, in part, may offer a window into why. For example, now Biden and Trump voters support nuclear energy about equally. Trump voters care more about affordable and reliable electricity. Biden voters care more about climate change, and their support is driven by perception of need. Perception of need is boosted by climate change, recent energy supply problems, and Democratic leadership endorsements. The importance of Democratic leadership endorsements is shown in the Obama bump in 2010 and the Biden bump in 2021. In both cases, the increase in overall support for nuclear is largely attributable to increased support among Democrats.

The survey, with 1,000 nationally representative U.S. adults, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points and was conducted by Bisconti Research Inc. with Quest Global Research Mindshare Online Panel. The report includes trend data going back 38 years.

The United States is losing nuclear power when we need it the most

June 4, 2021, 2:49PMNuclear NewsEd Kee

The Biden administration has a goal to decarbonize the U.S. electricity sector by 2035.1 Achieving this goal would require a massive nuclear power build program. The U.S. nuclear power industry’s size and historical success signal that we are in a good position to do this, but at present the U.S. nuclear fleet is shrinking. Why is this so, and what can be done to turn the trend around?

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: Reliable and looking for respect

May 28, 2021, 2:58PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier
Fig. 1. All reactors. The median DER net capacity factor of the 96 reactors included in this survey for the three-year period 2018–2020 is 91.33 percent. For the five three-year periods between 1997 and 2011 shown above, 104 reactors were in operation. The 2012–2014 capacity factor includes 100 reactors, and 2015–2017 includes 99 reactors.

Capacity factor is a measure of reliability, and reliability delivers results. The U.S. nuclear power fleet produced about 789.9 TWh of clean electricity in 2020 and ended the year with 94 operating reactors. According to Energy Information Administration data, that’s about 37 percent more electricity than the 576.9 TWh produced in 1990 by a much larger fleet of 112 reactors.

Nuclear News has tracked and analyzed the capacity factors of the U.S. fleet since the early 1980s, before concerted industry efforts yielded unforeseen performance improvements. High nuclear capacity factors are now less an achievement than an expectation. So much so, in fact, that advanced reactors in development today are assumed to be capable of achieving capacity factors above 90 or even 95 percent.

The U.S. fleet has maintained a median capacity factor near 90 percent for 20 years (see Fig. 1), and the median design electrical rating (DER) net capacity factor for 2018–2020, at 91.33, does not disappoint—unless by showing virtually no change relative to the median of 91.34 recorded in 2015–2017. However, this lack of meaningful difference only underscores the consistent reliability of the U.S. fleet.

Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

52nd annual Buyers Guide is available

May 13, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

Nuclear News magazine has just released the 52nd annual Buyers Guide. This nuclear directory lists more than 600 companies worldwide in 475 business categories used throughout the nuclear community.

For more than 50 years, this annual directory has been a useful resource for utility professionals and the broader nuclear community to find the products, services, and partners needed for their next project. In addition to industry use, the Buyers Guide (and the monthly issues of Nuclear News) serves the nation’s nuclear engineering programs and are delivered to the 10,000 members of the American Nuclear Society. This special issue helps keep the current and future workforce and industry leaders informed about vendors and their areas of expertise, as well as about the ongoing projects and new innovations and technologies being used throughout all segments of the nuclear industry.

Granholm eyes federal assistance for at-risk reactors

May 10, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Granholm

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told lawmakers that she is open to offering federal subsidies to prop up struggling nuclear plants. Granholm spoke during a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, called to discuss the Biden administration’s proposal for the Department of Energy’s fiscal year 2022 budget.

What she said: “The DOE has not historically subsidized plants, but I think this is a moment to consider—and perhaps it is in the American Jobs Plan or somewhere—to make sure that we keep the current fleet active,” Granholm said on May 6, according to E&E News.

The consequences of closure: The local cost of shutting down a nuclear power plant

May 7, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire

When on May 7, 2013, the Kewaunee nuclear power plant in rural Wisconsin was shut down, it took with it more than 600 full-time jobs and more than $70 million in lost wages, not including temporary employment from refueling and maintenance outages. Taking into account indirect business-to-business activity, the total economic impact of the closure of the single-unit pressurized water reactor was estimated to be more than $630 million to the surrounding three-county area.

National Geographic looks at the future of nuclear power in the United States

May 6, 2021, 12:03PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Unit 3 of the Vogtle plant under construction (Photo: Georgia Power)

To reach President Biden’s goal of cutting U.S. carbon emissions in half by 2030 and to have a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, some environmentalists are reconsidering their opposition to nuclear energy’s role as a climate crisis solution. According to the article, The controversial future of nuclear power in the U.S., from National Geographic, nuclear power has a lot going for it. Its carbon footprint is equivalent to wind, less than solar, and orders of magnitude less than coal. Nuclear power plants take up far less space on the landscape than solar or wind farms, and they produce power even at night or on calm days.

A state of uncertainty: Nuclear power in Illinois

April 30, 2021, 5:01AMNuclear NewsMichael McQueen

If there is one U.S. state you might think would be on top of the nuclear-plant-retirement problem, it’s Illinois: With 11 power reactors, more than any other state, it is number one in nuclear generating capacity. In 2019, 54 percent of its in-state generation came from nuclear power. So why, at this writing in mid-April, does Illinois still face the possibility of losing two of its nuclear plants later this year?

Nuclear Power is New Jersey Power

April 25, 2021, 10:00PMNuclear NewsDylan Moon
Salem Nuclear Power Plant as photographed from Delaware Bay.

When a nuclear power plant closes, here is what happens:

Thousands of people lose their jobs. The local economy nosedives. Air pollution increases. Reliance on natural gas, often bought from out-of-state, goes up. Electricity on the grid becomes less reliable with the loss of the most reliable source of power. And electric prices can even rise.