ORIGINAL REPORTING: What About Nuclear?
Without the Clean Power Plan, are nuclear plants essential to combat climate change?; A new report sees emissions skyrocketing if nukes retire, but PG&E says that's not a given
Herman K. Trabish, Nov. 30, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: Since this story ran, the new administration’s disdain for the environment has become clearer, making the question raised here more important.
Renewables and distributed resources can help the U.S. significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. But a big debate remains over the role of nuclear power in that transition, especially without the Clean Power Plan. A 100% renewables power mix without nuclear is possible for nearly every nation by 2050, according to Stanford professor Mark Jacobson's Solutions Project. But renowned climatologist James Hansen, billionaire Bill Gates, and a roster of other voices say only an energy mix that includes nuclear power can beat climate change. A new paper from Rhodium Group found the closure of the most vulnerable nuclear plants in the U.S. fleet will likely drive greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) up in 2030, despite a renewables boom.
In the face of higher operating costs and lower electricity prices, the economic viability of the nation's nuclear fleet — supplier of 19% of U.S. electricity — is now increasingly in doubt. Older plants are being scheduled for retirement when operators say they could be authorized to run decades longer. If that happens, the paper finds, greenhouse gas emissions will rise, particularly if the Trump administration throws out the Clean Power Plan, as expected. Nuclear advocates say keeping the vulnerable plants going is the only practical choice. California, as usual, has a different idea. Its climate and energy policies are making baseload generation less relevant and less economic and placing an increasing premium on flexible generation… click here for more