04.08.2015_No151 / News

Cautious Welcome From Nuclear Industry For Obama’s Clean Power Plan

Policies & Politics

4 Aug (NucNet): New nuclear reactors and power uprates to existing units will count towards meeting national benchmarks as part of standards announced by President Barack Obama to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

US President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, is the “single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change”, Mr Obama said.

The plan contains “strong but achievable standards” for power plants and customised goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.

As part of the plan the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also issued final carbon pollution standards for new, modified, and reconstructed power plants, and proposed a federal plan to help states in implementing the Clean Power Plan.

Mr Obama said: “Over the next few years each state will have the chance to put together its own plan for reducing emissions. We are giving states the time and flexibility they need to reduce pollution in a way that suits them.”

The US nuclear energy industry said the plan “significantly changes” how the electric power sector operates well into the future and affects all sources of electricity, including nuclear energy facilities.

But it warned that without nuclear energy, the Clean Power Plan’s carbon reduction goals will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve and sustain.

Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, said based on a preliminary review, the EPA’s final proposals appear to require larger carbon reductions than draft proposals, and place a greater emphasis on mass-based compliance approaches. “Those two factors alone should drive increased recognition of the value of existing nuclear power plants,” Mr Fertel said.

Mr Fertel said the industry is pleased that the final proposals say nuclear plants under construction should not be part of the goal-setting calculation, but should count towards compliance when they are operating.

“We are also encouraged that power uprates that increase nuclear plants’ carbon-free output should count towards compliance,” he said.

But Mr Fertel said the industry is disappointed that the “best system of emission reduction” in the final proposals does not incorporate the carbon-abatement value of existing nuclear power plants – the largest source of carbon-free electricity.

Mr Fertel said: “In the final rule, the EPA notes correctly that ‘existing nuclear generation helps make existing CO2 emissions lower than they would otherwise be, but will not further lower CO2 emissions below current levels.’ What the final rule fails to recognise is that CO2 emissions will be significantly higher if existing nuclear power plants shut down prematurely.”

The NEI had also suggested that new nuclear capacity should include nuclear plants relicensed to operate beyond 60 years, and any nuclear plants that had not received licence extensions to operate beyond their original 40-year licence term as of the beginning of the 2012 baseline year. But the final rule appears to give no credit for license extensions, Mr Fertel said.

“For more than half the states in America, nuclear power plants are their largest source of carbon-free electricity,” Mr Fertel said. “So there’s no question that any credible effort to reduce carbon emissions must acknowledge the need to maintain and expand the use of nuclear energy.

Details of the Clean Power Plan are online: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

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Contact the editor responsible for this story: David Dalton at david.dalton@nucnet.org

Related reports in the NucNet database (available to subscribers):

  • US Needs To Prevent Shutdowns Or Face Long-Term Problems, Says NEI’s Fertel (Insider No.11, 29 April 2015)

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