Yes, The Vogtle Decision Has National Security Implications:
Will Georgia Keep Its Word?
“I have recalled this [nuclear energy] history to emphasize the fact that decisions about the peacetime development of nuclear energy have not, cannot and probably should not be made on the basis of strict economic realism.” (Henry DeWolf Smyth, Manhattan Project, Atomic Energy Commission, IAEA U.S. Ambassador, 1956, Foreign Affairs)
As the decision on whether to move forward with the construction of Units 3&4 at Plant Vogtle remains up in the air, at least through today, it’s worth putting this issue in the broader context it deserves. And that broader context is U.S. national security. Continue reading “Will Georgia Keep Its Word on Nuclear Power?”
Vogtle Units 3 & 4: Critical Assets for Georgia’s Energy Infrastructure
The state of Georgia has consistently provided some of the lowest electricity rates in the country over the past three decades, particularly among the top 10 GDP states in the U.S. (Figures below). Central to this has been Georgia’s vertically-integrated regulated market structure. This regulated structure has allowed Georgia’s Public Service Commission
and electric power sector to develop long-term integrated resource planning that takes into account the ever-changing economic, political and regulatory landscapes along with technology changes, all of which impact energy costs in the near- and long-term. In terms of carbon reduction alone, Georgia’s nuclear power generation capacity has been a critical asset by directly avoiding over one billion metric tons
. Had it not been for nuclear power at Plants Hatch and Vogtle over the past forty-plus years, Georgia would be facing a nearly impossible path toward an affordable low-carbon future.
Georgia is well-positioned today with low-cost low-carbon electricity in large part because of past decisions to build nuclear power capacity. With a future that will require even lower carbon electricity and in order to keep the state economically competitive with the rest of the country, the completion of Vogtle Units 3&4 isn’t just an option–it’s a necessity.
California Has Decided Its Energy Future:
Now It’s Georgia’s Turn
A couple of weeks ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that sets California on the path toward generating all of the state’s electricity from clean sources. The word “clean” is somewhat of a hedge as it leaves the window cracked open for nuclear power to be included in this zero-carbon objective. However, California’s recent history all but points to their real objective of 100% renewable energy since the state recently voted to shut down its last remaining nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, and subsequently passed legislation requiring that Diablo’s generation be offset by zero-carbon resources.
The California dream is 100% renewable energy—zero coal, zero natural gas and zero nuclear. Moreover, Governor Brown hopes that California’s 100% clean energy bill will serve as a model for other state and national governments and will “wake up the national leaders” on the need to confront climate change.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, the lone U.S. nuclear construction project at Plant Vogtle faces a critical vote on Monday, September 24. Continue reading “California Has Decided Its Energy Future: Now It’s Georgia’s Turn”
U.S. Nuclear Power: Too Strategic to Fail
(Full Op-ed in The Hill)
The advances by China and Russia in nuclear power are daunting. Both countries are fully engaged in the construction of nuclear plants, loading fuel into reactors, connecting nuclear plants to the grid, developing programs for closing the fuel cycle, conducting research and development on advanced reactors and, in order to sustain these cycles of activity, securing decades-long nuclear construction deals throughout the world. In a word, “strategic” characterizes China’s and Russia’s approaches to civilian nuclear power.
Meanwhile, the lone nuclear construction project in the U.S., at Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia, remains on schedule to begin loading fuel in October of 2019 even though it was recently announced that construction costs would increase by $1.1 billion. While it has been suggested that Vogtle may have become “too big to fail”, the issue of nuclear power in the U.S. extends beyond Vogtle. as the disparity that separates the U.S. from China and Russia is not the international order of nuclear science, engineering and technology envisioned by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower and the early framers of U.S. nuclear policy. Moreover, this disparity in progress is a consequence of a disparity in strategy.
… (Full Op-ed in The Hill) …
The issue at hand is not so much a question of whether nuclear projects in the U.S. are too big to fail. It’s much larger and more systemic than that. The issue is that nuclear power in America is too strategic to fail. And two of the steps necessary to ensure that it doesn’t fail are the completion of Vogtle and the development of a robust public-private partnership dedicated to developing advanced nuclear technologies and keeping the U.S. competitive on the global civilian nuclear stage.
Renewable Energy in Perspective: The Carbon Gap
In the aftermath of yesterday’s announcement by EPA of its Affordable Clean Energy plan, which is proposed as a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, it’s worth taking a look at the global carbon picture in order to maintain the appropriate perspective for global climate. The emphasis here being that it’s global climate, not just U.S. climate, and the deployment of renewable energy in the U.S. isn’t where our carbon-reduction focus should be confined. This brief analysis points to the need for large-scale deployments of nuclear power in order to offset the continued expansion of fossil fuel-fired power generation as renewable energy alone is not standing up to the challenge of carbon emissions at the global scale of billions of people and trillions of dollars in economic activity. The greatest impact the U.S. can have on reducing global carbon emissions is working with other countries in the deployment of nuclear power.
Continue reading “Renewable Energy in Perspective: The Carbon Gap”
Regulated vs. Deregulated Markets
Figure 1. Residential rates for top 10 GDP states.
Georgia’s regulated, vertically-integrated market structure has consistently delivered some of the lowest residential rates among top 10 GDP states (Figure 1). Of these top 10 GDP states, only Georgia, Florida and North Carolina have regulated electricity markets—the others are deregulated. Continue reading “Residential Rates: Regulated vs. Deregulated Markets”
Global CO2 and Coal:
We Won’t Do This Without Substantial Nuclear Power Capacity
Just a quick post of three graphs illustrating global CO2 emissions and electricity generated by coal. China, India and the U.S. remain the three countries of concern as they represent the two largest economies in the world (U.S. and China), the two largest populations in the world (China and India), the two countries undergoing the greatest increases in economic growth and energy consumption (China and India) and the country (the U.S.) with enough industrial and economic maturity to direct its attention and technological heft toward helping the rest of the world meet its energy and economic objectives while also meeting climate goals.
If we are to have any realistic hope of moderating CO2 emissions at the global scale while meeting our national security objectives, we need something along the lines of a 21st century nuclear power Marshall Plan where the U.S. nuclear industry is engaged throughout the world. We’ve done it before—we can do it again. We certainly need it.
Electricity Generated from Coal
- Global coal consumption for power generation increased 2.9% from 2016-2017;
- From 2016-2017, consumption of coal for power generation increased 4.7% in both China and India, continuing a 30-year trend for China and a 20-year trend for India as both countries continue economic growth;
- China’s once-anticipated plateauing of coal consumption, from 2013-2015, seems to have been premature;
- From 2016-2017, U.S. consumption of coal for power generation decreased 2.4%, continuing a decade-long decline as the U.S. electric power sector continues shifting from coal to natural gas.
Continue reading “Global CO2 and Coal”
Total U.S. Nuclear Power Generation
Of the 99 nuclear reactors currently in operation in the U.S., Oyster Creek is the oldest and was connected to the grid back in December of 1969. Since then, U.S. nuclear plants have operated for a total of 26,369,130 hours and generated almost 24 billion MWhrs of electricity. This is enough electricity to meet U.S. demand, at a 2017 consumption level, for about six years.
Moreover, since 1969, had it not been for nuclear power the U.S. likely would have been building baseload coal plants to meet increasing electricity demand. Instead, because of nuclear power, the U.S. avoided CO2 emissions equivalent to over 8 years of CO2 emissions from the U.S. power sector.
We’re fooling ourselves if we think that without nuclear power we can meet carbon-reduction goals and maintain a reliable grid at the global scale of trillions of dollars in economic activity and billions of people in emerging economies needing more electricity.
It won’t happen.
What nuclear power has done for the U.S. is what nuclear power can do for the world.
Georgia’s Shifting Power Generation Portfolio:
The Need for Vogtle
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) recently released its 2018 Summer Reliability Assessment that focuses on issues related to the U.S. electric power system’s ability to respond to peak demand, which typically occurs during the summer. Central to this assessment is the evaluation of a system’s reserve margins, which is the amount of unused available capacity of a power system, at peak load, as a percentage of total capacity. This unused capacity is to be held in reserve to meet demand during exceptional periods when the peak period may also be compounded by a typical generator outage. While the electric power sector is a unique industry where supply meets demand exactly and just-in-time, that same sector must have in reserve enough capacity to maintain that exact, just-in-time delivery—capacity that must be callable at any moment. Otherwise, power outages ensue, which in the middle of summer are life-threatening. This raises important issues regarding not only reserve margins, but also the age of a power generation fleet and the planning efforts for ensuring reserve margins can be sustained over the long-term.
This is a quick, brief overview/profile of the power generation fleet for select utilities and IPP non-CHP providers in the state of Georgia.
Figure 1. The power generation fleet for select utilities and IPP non-CHP providers in the state of Georgia by age range, resource and capacity.
Continue reading “Georgia’s Shifting Power Generation Portfolio: The Need for Vogtle”
Nuclear Power Generation in Georgia
and Avoided Emissions
The first nuclear reactor in Georgia, Plant Hatch Unit 1, came online at the end of 1975. This was followed by Plant Hatch Unit 2 in mid-1979, Vogtle Unit 1 in mid-1987 and Vogtle Unit 2 in mid-1989.
Figure 1. Nuclear power generation in Georgia and avoided emissions.
Combined, these four units have generated over 1 billion MWhrs of zero-emission electricity, which is equal to the electricity consumed by Georgia over the past nine years total. Moreover, the emissions these nuclear plants allowed Georgia to avoid total to 1,009,174,666 mtons of CO2 and 6,416,696 mtons of SO2 if coal had been the alternative, and 413,761,613 mtons of CO2 if natural gas had been the alternative. The CO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to thirteen years of CO2 emissions while the SO2 emissions avoided is equivalent to nine years of SO2 emissions. This has been quite the deal for Georgia—avoiding environmental emissions with reliable baseload power while keeping rates affordable. Continue reading “Nuclear Power in Georgia and Avoided Emissions”