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Changing the Fuel Mix: Time for a Nuclear Rescue?

Gas-fired power is king today, but fuel diversity needs and new technologies may open the door for nuclear and coal.
Fortnightly Magazine - September 1 2002

is a next generation, which is a whole other issue." Gale adds that pebble bed is "going away," although it may become possible to build over the next 20 years. But at present he believes that the ABWR, the AP1000, and the ACR-700 are most likely to be built.

In fact, AECL has contacted the three companies filing the early site permits, and Exelon, which w ill file its application at the NRC in June 2003, will include the ACR-700 as a contender in its perm it package. Dominion also has confirmed they will include it, and while AECL expects Entergy also will, the negotiations are continuing. Gale explained the companies all will file at the NRC using a plant pa rameter envelope (PPE), which characterizes all the variables of the units, such as size and water dema nds. The companies will include a group of reactors that all fit within that envelope. PPE was develop ed along with NEI and the Electric Power Research Institute, and is in Excel spreadsheet form as a st ep toward fitting plants within certain conventions.

Plant Construction Downturn

Although the need for electricity is proven, will enough plants be built? The generating plant cons truction industry is suffering at present from a downturn. The U.S General Accounting Office (GAO) in late June released a report examining the addition of generating plants in states that have embraced re tail competition. Concerns have been raised that in restructured states, where decisions on new power p lants are left now to independent developers, rather than decided by utilities and state regulators, th e result may be a lack of generation capacity. The report focused on Pennsylvania, Texas, and Californi a. But recently, because of the national economic slowdown, the September 11 terrorist attacks, and col lapse of Enron, GAO said that developers have canceled or postponed 23,000 of the 68,000 megawatts of p roposed capacity not yet under construction in those three states alone. 1

Two companies that keep track of power plant construction agree the industry overall is experienci ng a slump. According to Industrial Information Resources, Inc. of Houston, while developers of new po wer plants take a cautious approach to new plant construction beyond 2003, the industry will still have more capacity added in 2002 than last year. In 2001, new power units coming online accounted for over 44,000 megawatts of capacity. Brit Burt, manager of power for Industrialinfo.com says, "In comparison , we have identified new units, at grassroot and existing plants, with a total capacity of over 58,000 megawatts, scheduled to come online before the end of 2002." Burt adds that "the most active U.S. NE RC regions for adding new capacity in 2002 include the Southeastern U.S. (SERC) with almost 13,000 m egawatts, the Western U.S. (WSCC) with over 7,000 megawatts, and the Northeast (NPCC) with just over 6,000 megawatts." He explained that many states in those regions are adding new capacity to address pro jected energy shortfalls, some are replacing older inefficient units, and others have opened generati on to competition.