How Nuclear and Renewables can Work Together for a Cleaner Future
While renewable energy is an establish technology, it’s still only in its early stages. Though while the renewable sector is rapidly growing, the nuclear energy industry is on the decline. Plants are aging, the technology is coming under scrutiny, and it’s becoming more and more expensive to keep up the infrastructure required.
Writing off nuclear energy at this stage could be dangerous, though. Naturally, the nuclear industry agrees. In a report titled “Nuclear Matters,” the industry argues that nuclear energy provides some very significant benefits to society.
“Our nation’s nuclear energy plants are vital national assets that provide reliable, carbon-free electricity to tens of millions of households and businesses around the country,” the group writes. “Despite their value, a combination of economic factors – including low natural gas prices, energy policies and market rules that fail to recognize this value – places these plants in economic jeopardy.”
The industry is getting support from high-profile politicians, though their attention is primarily focused on keeping the energy industry from cutting ties with nuclear power prematurely.
“Their challenge is to draw attention to the benefits of nuclear power, and to the costs if the U.S. retires those plants too prematurely,” Peter Kelly-Detwiler, a Forbes contributor, writes. “As Senator [Judd] Gregg points out, these plants produce the lion’s share of this country’s carbon free energy, at just over 63%. He notes that perhaps 20 or 30 of these plants might be closed prematurely owing largely to the current economic environment for energy. His is not just a theoretical argument: Wisconsin’s Kewaunee 556 MW facility shut down in May.”
He also points to several other plants suffering from the same fate. With states such as California entertaining energy plans that exclude nuclear, why should the industry not be written off yet?
Kelly-Detwiler believes “Nuclear Matters” makes a strong point. He says that the cost of renewable energy is rapidly falling and that the industry is getting closer and closer to grid parity at an exponential rate. He makes the point, though, that the only current true alternative to nuclear is gas fired power plants, which is what everyone (except for coal and gas, of course) is trying to move away from.
“If we can extend the existing nuclear plants, rather than retiring them prematurely, we can create important optionality at this critical tipping point, at a time when our country’s energy future truly needs it,” Kelly-Detwiler writes. “This optionality should be ascribed to nuclear plants and valued as such in the policy debates that occur in the coming months and years and we should think long and hard before we give that optionality away.”
What do you think? Should we continue investing in nuclear plants in order to further renewable energy, or is time to pull the plug?
Let us know what you think!
Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition
The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.
The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).
This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.
In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.
The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.