The "Air Pollution Management" Newsletter

June 2008
No. 362

Nuclear Impact is Major

Nuclear is the most cost competitive option to coal. However, the cost is still likely to remain higher. More importantly there are other negatives including environmental, energy security, and supply. Presently siting a nuclear plant is more difficult than a coal plant due to environmental opposition. There are also energy security aspects.

The nuclear new generation capability in the U.S. was dismantled. The world capacity growth has been modest. There are some very big hurdles to ramping up capacity to more than meet the substantial retirements. One example is the big Japanese fabricator which makes the containment vessels. It is the only company which can make the needed one piece modules. Its production is only four per year.

Alternatives are expansion of capacity or competition which would have to produce multi-piece vessels. These challenges are illustrative of the difficulty in ramping up nuclear capacity in the next 15 years.

DOE has taken these difficulties into account in its new 2008 forecast. Nuclear generating capacity in the AEO2008 reference case increases from 100.2 gigawatts in 2006 to 114.9 gigawatts in 2030. The increase includes 17 gigawatts of capacity at newly built nuclear power plants (33 percent more than in the AEO2007 reference case) and 2.7 gigawatts expected from uprates of existing plants, partially offset by 4.5 gigawatts of retirements.

The odds are conservatively 30 to 1 against nuclear playing a major role in the next fifteen years.


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