Building reactors requires new federal commitment.
Glenn S. K. Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a principal with independent consulting firm FMI Energy. He’s been involved with nuclear design, startup and operations since 1968. George R. DeVaux (email@example.com ) also is a principal with FMI Energy, and previously worked on renewable energy projects at Stone & Webster. Allen C. Church (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a consultant, and previously worked in power marketing and energy projects at FMI Energy.
With growing demand for electricity and shrinking sources for fuel, U.S. power producers are faced with a limited set of choices for replacing America’s aging power plants. While renewable energy sources will help offset future energy requirements, there is a need to provide a fleet of base-load power plants that can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Realistically, only nuclear energy and coal offer viable choices as long-term energy sources for these new base-load plants.
Although natural gas is a generally cleaner fuel than coal or petroleum, wholesale prices are volatile and subject to seasonal demands. In spite of these drawbacks, natural gas power plants remain one of the best choices for addressing daily peak periods.
In contrast, most nuclear power plants are designed to operate continuously and are ideal base-load energy sources. Over the next decade many of the nation’s 104 operating nuclear power plants will begin to be taken offline for retirement, leaving America with a significant deficit in answering current base-load needs. In addition to replacing the retiring nuclear and coal plants, growing demand from a new electric economy will serve only to increase needs for expanded base-load power production.