Friday, August 01, 2014

IHS Explores Energy Diversity

IHSCoverEnergy Diversity has always been a tough topic. Renewable energy advocates would prefer to see diversity end with their preferred gusty, sunny choices while the energy industry is wary of putting too many eggs in an intermittent omelet. Conversely, the polar vortex showed that natural gas and coal can be sidelined by physical limitations (coal freezing in piles) and operational considerations (natural gas diverted to home heating).

But noting these things anecdotally is much easier than trying to quantify them. This is what IHS, a data and software company in Colorado, has tried to do in a report called The Value of U.S. Power Supply Diversity. It’s a worthwhile report because IHS is not in the tank (or reactor core) for any particular industry – it might like to service any and all of them, which one should consider in reviewing this report – and comes across as exceptionally even handed.

That doesn’t mean the company has nothing to say about itself:

IHS Energy employed its proprietary Power System Razor (Razor) Model to create a base case by closely approximating the actual interactions between power demand and supply in US power systems.

I’m sure their salespeople would be happy to share Razor with you so you can model your industry.

So what has Razor come up with on energy diversity?

The current diverse US power supply reduces US consumer power bills by over $93 billion per year compared to a reduced diversity case. In addition, the current diversified power generation mix mitigates exposure to the price fluctuations of any single fuel and, by doing so, cuts the potential variability of monthly power bills roughly in half.

It agrees with our view of the polar vortex:

The recent volatility [because of the polar vortex] in the delivered price of natural gas to the US Northeast power systems demonstrates the value of fuel diversity.

Nuclear energy made a significant difference here, but IHS at least validates the premise. To be honest, I was a little doubtful about using the polar vortex to demonstrate that nuclear facilities did what they’re supposed to do anyway – keep running, which they did. For making the case for energy diversity, however, the vortex is a gift in a bottomless box.

The report pins down elements that define the elements of diversity. These include what it calls “The Portfolio Effect,” which like a stock portfolio, hedges against price volatility by including a variety of types; and “The Substitution Effect,” by which one energy type can spell another (as nuclear did for natural gas and coal during the vortex).

The report takes a kind of Panglossian view here and there:

US power consumers benefit from the diverse power supply mix shown in Figure 14 [which shows the current mix]. Simply inheriting this diverse generation mix based on fuel and technology decisions made decades ago makes it easy for current power stakeholders to take the benefits for granted.

Which is, we live in the best of all possible energy worlds. If you accept that, it’s because it’s the mix (more-or-less) that created the modern world - which wasn’t fretting about carbon emissions until relatively recently.

The report tackles this, though it’s fair to say that while downplaying climate change keeps the focus on diversity, it also makes the report seem a little dim on current events:

The relative unpopularity of coal, oil, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants (compared to renewables), combined with the missing money problem, tightening environmental regulations, and a lack of public awareness of the value of fuel diversity create the potential for the United States to move down a path toward a significant reduction in power supply diversity.

Which is bad, of course – and it is. I’d probably ease nuclear and hydroelectric out of that list because 1.) nuclear is well-recognized for its emission-free qualities and 2.) hydro feels misplaced no matter how you cut it. Who dislikes hydropower? If these are allowed back in, that’s good for diversity and for carbon emission reduction. It’s broadly recognized that these are key energy types going forward, which the report itself considers essential to policy.

Whenever the report looks at nuclear energy, it’s well-informed and, as far as it goes, correct.

German power prices increased rapidly over the past decade because Germany closed nuclear power plants before it was economic to do so and added too many wind and solar power resources too quickly into the generation mix.

The arbitrary distinctions involved in “clean energy” are evident when comparing the emissions profiles of integrated wind and solar power production to that of nuclear power production. A simplistic and misleading distinction between power supply resources is a contributing factor to the loss of fuel diversity.

We’ve picked a few nits, but this is without doubt one of the best reports we’ve seen that zeroes in on energy diversity. Well worth serious consideration to understand this important energy topic.

NEI has a good story about this report here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

On Nuclear Power Plants and Water Use

Earlier this week, a pair of studies were published claiming that the world would soon face a critical shortage of drinking water, perhaps as soon as 2040 due to water consumed by power plants. I've come to view studies like these with a certain degree of skepticism given that they're often published by groups with an axe to grind.

This week was no different, as I couldn't help but notice that one of the studies was being proffered by Benjamin Sovacool, a long-time anti-nuclear activist, as well as the Vermont Law School, folks that we've tangled with before.

With that in mind, I reached out to NEI's Bill Skaff, our resident expert on nuclear energy and water use. Here's what he had to say.
We know of no reputable climate change modeling that finds any potential U.S. drinking water scarcity to be the result of power plant operations. In fact, electricity makes possible the purification and pumping necessary to produce potable water. Moreover, electricity will be essential in the future to desalinate seawater and brackish groundwater to augment drinking water supplies.

Here are some other facts to consider that provide some needed context that the news coverage this week has omitted. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 1995, the last USGS study to consider water consumption nationwide:
  • Electric power sector water consumption represents only 3.3 percent of the nation's water consumption.
  • Residential water consumption, at 6.7 percent, is more than twice power sector consumption.
  • Agricultural water consumption is 81.3 percent, 17 percent of which is water lost during conveyance that never reaches the crops it is intended to irrigate.
The Electric Power Research Institute, in a 2002 study, found that 98 percent of water withdrawn by the electric power sector is returned to the source water bodies.

The electric power industry, in partnership with businesses, universities, and the National Science Foundation, is supporting over a dozen research projects to develop power plant cooling technologies designed to reduce water consumption in the future.
Thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer my questions. For more on water use and holistic environmental management, please visit our website.

Photo Credit: Shot of running water by Flickr user Richard Smith. Photo used under Creative Commons license.

Why U.S. Needs Nuclear As Part of "All of the Above" Energy Strategy

Glenn McCullough, Jr.
The following is a guest post by Glenn McCullough, Jr. He served as Mayor of Tupelo, Mississippi and was Chairman of TVA from 2001 - 2005. Currently he is Chairman of the board for NuVision Engineering in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter, @GlennMcCJr.

On January 10, the Weather Channel broadcast an extraordinarily rare headline: “Coldest Temperatures of the Century for Some.” It was referring to the "Polar Vortex," that swept into states as far south as Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia in the early days of the new year.

On the flip side, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration pegged 2012 as the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States. That summer, 99 million Americans experienced at least 10 days of temperatures above 100 degrees.

Here’s the point: extreme weather happens. Whether it’s a deep cold or a stifling heat, Americans deal with varying temperature changes throughout the year. It would be nice if the only thing those shifts affected was our decision to wear a sweater or a t-shirt. Unfortunately, weather variables have enormous impacts on our country’s electric power supply, stability and cost.

When I was appointed to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors in 1999, I was struck by TVA’s deep and unrelenting commitment toward safe, reliable, and affordable nuclear energy. As a result, the TVA and local power companies are able to keep the lights on year after year for 9 million people throughout the Tennessee Valley.

During my tenure at TVA, we embarked on a strenuous evaluation of every baseload electric generation option, including natural gas and coal, with controls to reduce harmful emissions. In 2002, the board made the decision to restart a reactor that had been offline since 1985. When evaluated for environmental impacts, financial and operational soundness and long-term reliability, restarting the Brown’s Ferry 1 reactor was the best option for future power generation.

The restart was meticulously planned with a $1.8 billion budget and a five-year timeframe. In 2007, Brown’s Ferry 1 was brought back online - both on schedule and on budget. President Bush personally traveled to the facility to commemorate the successful restart.

Today, Brown’s Ferry is reliably generating safe, clean, affordable nuclear energy. That reactor, along with other nuclear energy facility in 31 states, proves that nuclear energy plays a vital role in providing cleaner, reliable, and less expensive electricity for Americans.

Without nuclear energy, in fact, there’s no doubt consumers would have faced widespread electricity shortages during that summer of 2012 and this winter. And with the way our nation’s coal plants are shutting down due to EPA regulation, nuclear energy should play a more significant role in the years ahead.

No matter what the weather brings, Americans need reliable energy, especially in the face of record temperatures. When supply shortages are met with the high demand of summer and winter months, it always leads to higher prices for consumers. In the worst cases, it leads to blackouts. Those are the times we need reliable energy the most.

Currently, 100 reactors produce almost 20 percent of America’s total electricity. Nuclear plants operate safely and are online an industry-leading 91 percent of the time, generating clean, affordable electricity around the clock. That’s more reliable than other any other source of electricity, including natural gas and coal. They also produce nearly two-thirds of all carbon-free electricity nationwide.

It’s time to take a closer look at nuclear energy. It's clear that nuclear energy plays a key role in a balanced electricity production portfolio to power our economic growth and today’s digital lifestyle.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reauthorizing Ex-Im Bank is Vitally Important to Small Business

Seth Grae
The following is a guest post from Seth Grae, president and CEO of Lightbridge Corporation, a leading innovator of nuclear fuel designs and provider of nuclear energy consulting services.

There is a notion among some members of Congress that one way to shrink the U.S. government is to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank to cease to exist at the end of September by refusing to reauthorize it. Allowing the Ex-Im Bank to die would actually increase the federal deficit by about a billion dollars per year and would be devastating to small businesses across the country. Overall, about 85% of Ex-Im’s transactions support US small companies.

Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR) is a small company that has a world-class team of experts advising governments that are starting or expanding nuclear energy-generation programs. We have the opportunity to see the bid specs these countries use in procuring nuclear power plants. From what we’ve seen, if the US loses the Ex-Im Bank, US reactor vendors will not be able to meet the bid specs overseas. If this happens, the impact will ripple across the nation. When large US companies deploy reactors in other countries, they buy goods and services from smaller US companies through supply chains that reach hundreds of businesses. These supply chains often last for decades, during the operating life of the reactors.

Lightbridge has not applied for or received support from the Ex-Im Bank because we are paid directly by foreign governments and companies for services we provide, but we have firsthand knowledge of how vital the Ex-Im Bank is for other small US companies. Even where large American companies are not the reactor vendors, some US companies we work with receive support directly from the Ex-Im Bank for their involvement in overseas nuclear power programs.

These companies bring unique, world-leading expertise in vital areas, including nuclear safety and nonproliferation. The United States invented the nuclear reactor and our companies have the longest and deepest experience in running reactors safely. Having American personnel on the ground brings our expertise directly into foreign programs.

Congress’s failure to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank would cost taxpayers billions over the long term, hurt small businesses across the country, and limit the amount of American nuclear safety and nonproliferation expertise in foreign nuclear programs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Global Energy Infrastructure: Teaching Students the Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The following guest post comes from Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, senior manager of workforce policy and programs at NEI.

Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides
Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides
Supporting American students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers was the goal of this latest joint volunteer effort. Employees from the Nuclear Energy Institute and members of the DC Chapters of Women in Nuclear and North American Young Generation in Nuclear facilitated NAYGN's Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle game for 280 middle and high school students at the Technology Student Association's (TSA) annual conference.

“It was energizing to see the students and volunteers from the various organizations engaged in this thought provoking, interactive game with roots in the nuclear industry and STEM,” said Suzanne McKillop, a member of DC WIN.

Suzanne McKillop
Suzanne McKillop
TSA hosted 6,800 attendees at their 2014 national conference from June 27 through July 1 in Washington, D.C. TSA is the only student organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students engaged in STEM. Middle and high school attendees participated in 60 STEM competitions and multiple special interest sessions during this year's conference.

The Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Infrastructure game was one of these special interest sessions. Terry Lowe-Edwards, Marketing Manager for TSA said, "The nuclear volunteers’ admirable participation in the recent conference provided everyone with a valuable experience and, certainly, one they will remember."

The Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Infrastructure game is a role-play where 14 teams representing different nations compete for resources to complete a nuclear fuel cycle for their country. Student participants worked in teams of 10 to develop a strategy for their nation and collaborated with other teams to find the resources to complete their fuel cycle.

Muhammad Fahmy
Muhammad Fahmy
"It was great to see both high school and middle school students not only participating in the activity, but truly understanding and retaining the activity’s intended messages and lessons,” said Muhammad Fahmy, a Bechtel NAYGN member and co-creator of the game. “This was the first time we’ve attempted the activity with participants this young; surprisingly though, we found that the dynamic learning element from the game was just as successful with students as it has been with adults."

Designers of the game originally wanted to help non-nuclear engineering professionals from industry better understand the complexity of the nuclear fuel cycle and the utilities’ role within it, ultimately so they could better engage with the nonproliferation community. The uniqueness of the game made it popular and has been used by many U.S. nuclear organizations, as well as internationally in England and South Africa.

McKillop added, “This was my first time participating in the Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle Game and the knowledge of the game’s creators made this a truly engaging experience for the students and volunteers alike. The students were able to quickly comprehend the complex nuclear fuel cycle and then role-play as if they were diplomats and industry giants.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nuclear's Contribution to a Positive Future

The following post was sent to us by Southern Nuclear’s Joshua Andrews for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them. 

Joshua Andrews is a nuclear engineer in the Nuclear Fuel Supply group at Southern Nuclear who has been in the nuclear industry for three years. 

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels. 

Joshua Andrews
Why I enjoy working in nuclear 
My job allows me to make decisions that will directly and positively impact the lives of people I care about and the entire footprint of our service area. There will always be a need for electricity, so I can’t think of a more meaningful way to secure a positive future for myself and my family then to ensure that nuclear is seen as the most viable source of energy production.

Why I think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future 
I think it’s important for all of the obvious reasons: it provides clean, affordable and reliable energy to customers. With increasing concerns surrounding global climate change, we have to prioritize how we are going to meet America’s electricity demand without negatively impacting the environment. In my opinion, no other energy source does that better on a large scale than nuclear energy, and I worry that most people don’t understand the full value that nuclear can bring to the table. To meet our goals as a country, nuclear energy needs to be part of the long-term solution.

How I bring innovation into the nuclear industry
I am innovating by bringing passion and a new perspective. Many of my colleagues and I graduated from college and immediately joined very seasoned teams. The senior members of those teams provide invaluable experience and knowledge. We bring an opportunity to suggest new approaches or challenge processes that have become unnecessarily burdensome. We are constantly looking for ways that we can optimize or automate tasks that were once monotonous and cumbersome. One of the best ways my colleagues and I bring innovation into the nuclear industry is through our experience and interaction with both social media and newer technologies. With each success, we spread that knowledge to a wide range of personnel, effectively freeing up more time for all of us to be spending on innovative practices.

How working in the nuclear industry affects my personal life 
I work at the utility that supplies electricity to a majority of my family, which has given me the opportunity to effectively educate and communicate with them about the many positive attributes of nuclear energy. My volunteer work with local organizations also lets me spread a positive word about the nuclear industry to others in my community. I’ve found that the majority of people are extremely curious about nuclear energy, and—given the facts—they are ready to shed the negative perception that’s clouded nuclear energy for decades. Additionally, I’m highly involved with North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), which has also allowed me to further expand the reach of nuclear energy’s positive messages.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why Closing Indian Point In Summer is Like Shutting Down Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera
Let's turn back the clock to May 9, 2001 and visit the Bronx to play a game of "what if?"

The defending World Series Champions, the New York Yankees, are locked in a tight pennant race early in the season, trailing the hated Boston Red Sox by just a half game in the standings after beating the Minnesota Twins 2-0 at home. The win was locked up thanks to the efforts of Mariano Rivera, widely acknowledged to be the best relief pitcher in the game.  

As Yankees manager Joe Torre arrives for his postgame press conference, his demeanor doesn't reveal that he's about to drop a bombshell that will rock the baseball world. Looking to add a throwaway quote to a story, one reporter asks Torre to reflect on what Rivera's pitching has meant for the team.

"What else is there to say? Without Mariano, we don't win the World Series in '98, '99 or 2000. He's at the heart of everything we do around here. Which reminds me, as of tomorrow, we're shutting him down. There really isn't a reason I can point to right now. All I can tell you is that Mariano won't be available to pitch beginning tomorrow and won't be back in our bullpen for three months."

"How can the team possibly win the division without Rivera closing games? And what plan do you have to replace him?" asks another reporter.

"Well, we really don't have a plan. I guess we'll just make it up as we go along," Torre says.

Crazy, you say? Of course it wouldn't ever have happened (Torre wouldn't have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame if he had made managerial decisions like that). Unfortunately, something a whole lot like it is playing out on the New York electric grid and the consequences for Westchester County and New York City could be far more severe than losing a couple of baseball games.

Indian Point Energy Center
Last week in New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation held a hearing to propose that Indian Point Energy Center, the 2,045 MWe champion of the New York State electric grid, shut down every year from May 10 to August 10 to take pressure off of local fish populations. If you don't already know it, Indian Point provides 25 percent of the electricity used in Westchester and New York City every day.

As an alternative, local environmental groups have proposed Entergy install cooling towers, a multi-billion dollar project that would put additional pressure on New York electricity prices, already the highest in the nation.And for what it's worth, as far as Entergy's concerned, the complaints about the local fish population are completely without merit.

Needless to say, there are plenty of folks in New York ready to call this proposal out for what it is: stone cold crazy. Here's what the New York Post had to say: "Only in New York would a state agency suggest closing a power plant in summer, when electricity is needed most."

You'd think that more people would be able to understand that simple point, but the fact remains that too many seem to take electricity for granted. That's part of the reason why we published a special section of our website concerning nuclear energy's unmatched reliability. Every spring, nuclear plants around the country perform refueling outages to help plants run 24/7 for between 18-24 months at a time. That way, when demand spikes along with record high temperatures, nuclear plants like Indian Point Energy Center can serve as the reliable backbone of the nation's entire electric grid.

Last Summer, for seven straight days and nights, Indian Point did just that, working 24/7 as the New York Metropolitan area labored under record-setting high temperatures. Without Indian Point last Summer, New York's electric grid would have been in quite a pickle, just like the Yankees would have been in their glory years without Rivera.

When the heat is on, why in the world would you shut down the assets you depend on the most?

Photo Credit: Shot of Mariano Rivera by Keith Allison used under Creative Commons License. Click here for specific license terms. Photo of Indian Point courtesy of Entergy.

Aligning the Nuclear Energy Industry on Social Media

I have the privilege of speaking about NEI's alignment activities on social media at the 2014 U.S. Women in Nuclear Conference this Tuesday. I'll be joined on the Social Media in Action panel by Curtis Roberts of AREVA, Suzy Hobbs Baker of PopAtomic Studios and Paul Harwood of Twitter, with Susan Downs of PPL Susquehanna serving as moderator.

We are just a handful of the communicators in the nuclear energy industry who recognize the necessity and value of engaging with stakeholders through social media. The web has evolved into a social space where platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allow multidirectional, unfettered conversations to occur across physical boundaries and social constructs. As a result, the marketplace of ideas has never been easier to access.

With increased access, of course, comes increased volume. The noise on social is at full blast, with endless opinions and updates being lobbed at us from every corner. Smartphones are within reach at all times as new channels for sharing words, photos and videos pop up each day. Despite the overwhelming growth and clutter, social remains a space where real discussions happen, where minds and hearts are won, where everyday folks are moved to the point of action. It is a space where we must be active in order to reach our stakeholders and inform and persuade them on the benefits of nuclear

That is why NEI is working to align member companies on social. The industry's stakeholdersproponents and opponents alikeare active online and we must meet them there, but we must do it in a smart way. The goal is to instill a "ducks fly together" mentality so that our messages have greater impact and cut through the noise. Another goal is to get hesitant communicators on board with social and to embrace the noise rather than fear it. Here are examples of the strategies and tactics we are using:
  • NEI's Social Media Digest: An email is distributed every Monday to social practitioners filled with content and best practices for Twitter and Facebook. The digest includes an overview of upcoming industry events and the latest news in digital media.
  • Training NEI employees on Twitter: Internal experts like Ted Jones serve as advocates on Twitter, giving credible input to online debates around top issues.

  • Storytelling: We want nuclear communicators to persuade with less logos and more pathos. This means showcasing more of the human side of the nuclear industry
  • Hashjacking: We let communicators know which tags are popular and when to use them in order to join the conversation stream, such as on Earth Day and during live chats like the White House Climate Chat.
  • Newsjacking: This involves capitalizing on the popularity of a news story to amplify our messaging. We alert members to upcoming events and news items, and prompt them to place messaging on social before interest peaks. NEI has successfully done this ahead of the release of Pandora's Promise and the premiere of Years of Living Dangerously.


Source: David Meerman Scott
Follow along with the social panel and entire WIN conference using the tag #USWIN2014. Find my tweets at @taryou, and introduce yourself if you will be in the crowd.

See you online!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Why the CERES Study on Clean Energy is Fatally Flawed

Vogtle: the nuclear plant that wasn't there.
Yesterday Ceres, a non-profit organization that advocates for "sustainability leadership," issued a study called, "Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment: 2014 - Ranking 32 of the Largest U.S. Investor-Owned Electric Utilities on Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency."

While we're happy to see some of our member companies get credit for their efforts in these areas, we were puzzled when four utilities with significant nuclear generating assets - Entergy, Dominion Resources, SCANA and Southern Company - were listed near the bottom of the rankings. After all, these are companies with balanced portfolios that use zero-emission nuclear energy to help bolster both grid reliability as well as hedge against price volatility and potential supply disruptions.

Yesterday afternoon we put the question directly to Ceres on Twitter:
This was their response:
So I grabbed the report and turned to page 14. Here's what I found (emphasis mine):
Utility-scale hydroelectric and nuclear power are important energy resources that contribute about a quarter of U.S. electricity generation; however, we do not include them in this report because nearly all of the country’s large hydro and nuclear generation was built prior to 1980, and neither resource is widely expected to constitute a large portion of the nation’s newly built carbon-free energy portfolio going forward.
Let's consider these assertions one at a time. While I can't speak to the first assertion when it comes to large scale hydropower, when it comes to nuclear it's manifestly false. Currently, there are 99 nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. Forty-nine came into service in 1980 or later.

According to my calculations, that's more than 55,000 MWe of emission-free generation that Ceres refused to consider in its study. And that also fails to take into account the four AP-1000 reactors that SCE&G and Southern Company are currently building at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina and Plant Vogtle in Georgia, as well as the 1,180 MWe reactor under construction at Watts Bar in Tennessee. And I guess I shouldn't forget that after a speech here in Washington earlier this week, Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning told reporters that he'd like to announce plans to build two more AP-1000 reactors somewhere in the Southeast before the end of the year.

As for the second, every credible analysis (EPA, EIA, OECD) concludes that carbon reductions are impossible without major nuclear expansion. So what we have here isn't just a difference over methodology, we have a study that makes a pair of assertions that are false on their face. 

To finish up, I'll write it again: failing to credit utilities with nuclear assets for keeping air clean is deliberately misleading and a disservice to honest public debate. Please keep this in mind the next time CERES, or their partner in this study, CleanEdge. has anything to say about clean energy.

Energy Scalability and Carbon Reduction

Scott Peterson
The following is a guest post from Scott Peterson, NEI's Senior Vice President of Communications.

The New York Times, in an April editorial, wrote that “given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy.” (The Times also supports the use of nuclear energy in a low-carbon energy portfolio.)

A new report by IHS CERA on the value of diversity of sources in the electric sector demonstrates why we cannot pin the future of America’s energy on any single fuel or technology. As with many things in life, diversity is vital and all no- or low-carbon power sources are essential as we move into a carbon-constrained energy future.

The U.S. Department of Energy projects that U.S. electricity demand will rise 28 percent by 2040. That means our nation will need hundreds of new power plants to provide electricity for our homes and continued economic growth. Maintaining nuclear energy's current 19 percent share of electric generation would require building one reactor every year starting in 2016, or 20 to 25 new reactors by 2040, based on DOE forecasts.

A study published by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions earlier this year pointed out that the existing nuclear energy facilities is an overlooked, yet critical element in the transition to a low-carbon future. Without 100 reactors in 31 states, U.S. carbon emissions would be 289 million to 439 million metric tons higher in 2014, and 4 billion to 6 billion metric tons higher over the period of 2012 to 2025.

The Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP), a collaborative initiative by Columbia University Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs and others to understand and show how individual countries can transition to a low-carbon economy, recently released a study that calls for a profound transformation of energy systems by mid-century through steep declines in carbon intensity in all sectors of the economy—a transition called “deep decarbonization.” Nuclear energy is an important pathway toward global reduction of greenhouse gases.

The nuclear imperative has come full circle since the first commercial reactor was built in Shippingport, PA in 1957—a response to the tainted air quality in the Pittsburgh region. Today, reactors in the Northeast are a key factor in a nine-state compact to reduce carbon in the electric sector and will be essential to meet national standards being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant
When the Kewaunee nuclear plant south of Green Bay, WI closed in 2013, the state lost roughly 5% of its power supply. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported last month: “More importantly, the state lost an even bigger share of the power generation sources that produce no greenhouse gas emissions.”
The closure of the reactor has had "a definite impact on emissions from the state's electricity sector," said Paul Meier, an energy computer modeling expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Wisconsin Energy Institute.

The carbon dioxide emissions reductions the state achieved from building wind farms over the past eight years have largely been offset by the fossil fuels used to replace the power generated by Kewaunee, he estimates.
Maintaining operation of existing reactors and completing five reactors under construction in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee are an important complement to other low-carbon electricity sources, and a critical economic driver in the mostly rural communities where the facilities operate. The sheer scale of electricity production—and therefore emissions prevention—from nuclear energy sets it apart from other low-carbon choices. In Illinois, nuclear power plants displace 20 times more carbon emissions than wind, according to the Illinois Clean Energy Coalition.

Similarly, research and commercial demonstration of the next generation of reactors, including smaller factory-built designs, must continue for the future application of nuclear energy technology here and abroad. “We are developing a new type of new reactor that can run entirely on used nuclear fuel. It consumes the fuel and reduces its radioactive lifetime while producing an enormous amount of electricity,” says Leslie Dewan, chief scientist at Cambridge, MA-based Transatomic Power.