11 Jan (NucNet): The nuclear sector in the US is under stress because it has been taken for granted in “a perfect storm” created by very low natural gas prices, very low demand increases for electricity and subsidies for other types of generation, Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick said.
In an interview with Columbia Energy Exchange, the head of the industry’s trade association in Washington argued that shutting nuclear plants is a huge step backwards and they cannot be restarted when politicians and people change their minds. She said that because of the six nuclear plants that have retired since 2012, “it’s as if we’ve made no progress at all in adding clean energy”.
Nuclear is resilient and needs recognition in the marketplace for its low emissions, Ms Korsnick said. Nuclear helps keep the grid resilient, especially during periods of intense cold weather.
Ms Korsnick said: “Nuclear has a greater than 90% capacity factor. This is a very big number and this has been for 15 years. You don’t get lucky for 15 years in a row. It’s a demonstration of how well we have operated these plants. This is why nuclear needs to be part of the conversation on grid reliability.”
She said the situation for nuclear was very challenging, but called on states and the federal government not just to “casually shut down these baseload reliable plants before we have a very fulsome thought on where that leads us”.
The industry has long argued that electricity markets should be reformed to recognise the ability of traditional baseload generation with onsite fuel supplies – including nuclear power plants – to provide grid resiliency during extreme events like hurricanes or extreme winter weather.
Ms Korsnick said Germany’s “not very well thought-out” strategy to phase out nuclear resulted in the need for more coal, more carbon emission and plans for the Moscow-backed Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline, which would run under the Baltic Sea, bringing Russian gas directly to Western Europe and bypassing the existing networks running through Ukraine.
She said France, Finland, Canada have had success because they have strong nuclear industries and added that in US states where nuclear plants have closed carbon emissions have increased and so have electricity prices.