As U.S. policymakers consider how to tackle the challenge of greenhouse-gas constraints, the U.K.’s approach to the problem offers instructive examples.
The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions: The Full Portfolio
What the U.S. electricity sector must do to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in coming decades.
design criteria, high-frequency seismic design criteria, quality assurance standards, and fitness for duty—in support of a commercial operation goal of 2015.
• By 2020 to 2025, develop enhancements to ALWR design, construction, and operations ( e.g., modular construction, advanced automated plant controls, enhanced standardization) based on successful technology transfer of construction and operating experience from the existing fleet and early ALWR deployments.
Two nuclear-energy related technology areas not specifically analyzed in the EPRI report nevertheless will have a bearing on the commercial electricity sector: spent-fuel management and high-temperature gas reactors (HTGR).
Spent fuel management, although important to the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy, does not contribute directly to CO 2 emissions reductions. Today’s plants and those to be constructed between now and 2030 will be able to store spent fuel on site. For economic, energy security, and sustainability reasons, however, there is an imperative to establish an integrated spent-fuel-management system consisting of centralized interim storage, long-term geologic storage, and, when necessary, a closed nuclear-fuel cycle (recycling, reprocessing, and advanced reactor strategies). The current analysis assumes a consensus strategy is established by 2012 for integrated and cost-effective spent fuel management. Long-term projections in the 2050 time frame include a closed fuel cycle and deployment of “fast” reactors enabling the new fuel cycle. While not an imperative to achieving substantial emissions reductions by 2030, future RD&D will be necessary to enable a successful, cost-effective transition from a once-through to closed fuel cycle.
High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGR)
Operating at much higher temperatures (700ºC to 950ºC) than conventional LWR technology (300ºC), high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) can generate both electricity and process heat for industrial processes. Although originating from electricity-sector technology, HTGRs will provide a non-emitting technology option to reduce CO 2 emissions from large industrial energy consumers ( e.g., hydrogen production, petrochemical operations, and desalination). The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) commercial demonstration project—the U.S. Department of Energy’s name for the U.S. application of HTGR technology—already is underway. Key research milestones and deployment targets include prototype HTGR plant operation by 2018 and commercial HTGR introduction by the mid-2020s.
Challenge 4: Advanced Coal
Coal currently accounts for more than half of the electricity generated in the United States, and is projected by most analyses to remain the backbone of U.S. electricity supply through 2050 and beyond. Sustaining coal as a viable option in a carbon-constrained world entails increasing the efficiency and reducing the capital cost of pulverized coal (PC) and integrated gasification combined-cycle (IGCC) technologies, and bringing CO 2 carbon capture and storage to the point of cost-effective commercialization by 2020. Large- scale demonstrations will be necessary to convince private industry that technology commercialization is feasible.
The technology development pathways outlined in this section are intended to achieve two key targets: first, increase the efficiency of PC and IGCC baseload plants (with CO 2 capture) to the 43- to 45-percent range by 2030; and second, ensure that all coal plants built after 2020 have the capability to capture and store 90 percent of the CO 2 produced.