Wyoming to lead the coal-to-nuclear transition (design, engineering)

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: Coal and natural gas together produce two-thirds of our electricity, almost equally split between them. Nuclear produces 20%, hydro produces 7%, and renewables about 7%. Oil produces even more energy than either coal or gas, but it is used almost entirely for transportation except during Polar Vortexes when coal, gas and wind fail to produce their share. But nuclear just powers along, rarely affected by anything.

This reliability of nuclear, plus carbon emissions as low as wind, are why [...] Interest for new nuclear plants is growing beyond Wyoming as states in the western region like Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and North Dakota reevaluate the role of nuclear energy – particularly applications for advanced nuclear reactors that pair well with wind and solar. ... The European Union is also evaluating a coal-to-nuclear transition.

Even though U.S. coal plants have reduced their emissions significantly in the past several decades, State energy portfolios are eliminating coal, and increasing natural gas, as fast as possible. EIA projects that a total of 30 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity will retire by 2025.

But the best replacement energy sources for coal are nuclear and hydro. These are hindered by extreme regulations, hostile politics, and poor financing options, all of which can be fixed with serious political will and public-private partnerships like the one described here.

Besides, there is considerable overlap between job functions at a coal power plant and a nuclear power plant. In fact, nuclear is uniquely positioned to redirect skilled workers from the coal power industry to new nuclear plants, while historically offering the highest median wage across the entire energy sector. Retaining these jobs support local communities that may otherwise be devastated by the shutdown of coal power stations.

[...] One thing quite dissimilar is fuel. Nuclear takes a million times less fuel than coal to generate the same amount of electricity. We have enough uranium for thousands of years right now, but new technological breakthroughs from DOE’s PNNL and ORNL national laboratories have made extracting uranium from seawater within economic reach...

[...] Small modular reactors and advanced nuclear technologies offer a path forward for retired coal plants and their workers. Taking advantage of existing infrastructure compatibility will reduce electricity costs and in circumstances where technologies are compatible, lower construction costs. (See These 5 advanced nuclear reactors will shape the future of energy.)

[...] And it can’t melt down. “I am thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project, as our great state is the perfect place for this type of innovative utility facility and our experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide,” said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon... (MORE - details)

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