USA’s Environment Protection Authority’s Clean Power Plan will not save the nuclear industry

Report says EPA Clean Power Plan cannot save nuclear By 

The 20th Century model of large baseload electricity generation, including nuclear reactors, is in an irreversible decline in the face of the emerging 21st Century decentralized power model relying on renewables, energy efficiency, and technology-based demand management, says Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, in a new report.

For policymakers and ratepayers, Cooper’s stark conclusion means that “last-ditch efforts to prop-up nuclear power with amendments to the EPA Clean Power Plan (CPP), state-level subsidies (e.g., Exelon’s “nuclear blackmail” threat of Illinois lawmakers over five reactors in that state and FirstEnergy’s bailout scheme involving the Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio), attacks in Indiana, Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina and other states on renewable energy standards, and preferential rate-setting arrangements (e.g., Exelon’s Ginna reactor at Rochester, New York) are costly detours on the road to a much more consumer friendly, reliable and sustainable low carbon electricity sector.”

Cooper said: “Nuclear reactors old and new are far from a necessary part of a low-carbon solution. Nuclear power, with its war against the transformation of the electricity system, is part of the problem, not the solution. Following a path toward a 21st century electricity system poses no serious threat to reliability up to a 30-40 percent level. Beyond that, we already know the specific actions that can carry the system to much higher levels of reliance on renewables. Combining these measures which allow the system to operate at high levels of penetration with the implementation of aggressive efficiency measures meets 80 percent of ‘business as usual’ or base case demand. It is no longer a question of if this will happen, only when it will happen.”

The report concludes that, even with tinkering, the EPA Clean Power Plan will not save nuclear power.

“After decades of claiming to be a low-cost source of power because of low operating costs, aging reactors are no longer cost competitive even in that narrow view of operating cost,” the report says. “Not even the full implementation of the EPA Clean Power Rule would save aging reactors from early retirement, so the owners of those reactors have launched a major campaign to increase revenues with direct subsidies from state and federal policymakers and secure jerry-rigged market pricing rules that undermine alternatives.”

The report further contends that the “Exelon reactor bailout schemes” in New York State and Illinois will not work.

The report says, “Ginna is a New York reactor and Quad Cities is a two-reactor site in Illinois for which Exelon has stated specific revenue increases are needed, although these estimates are shrouded in uncertainty. The operating costs are quite high and total costs are higher still, well above recent market clearing prices…Operating costs alone are almost twice the current market clearing price of electricity and…things are likely to get worse rather than better over time…The frantic push for states to bail out these reactors when a response at the regional level is more appropriate (if a reaction is needed at all) will saddle state ratepayers with much larger burdens.”

The report does contend that more renewables are feasible without creating reliability issues.

“In the mid-term, expansion of renewables to the 30-40 percent range can be easily accommodated with the existing physical assets and management tools with no negative impact on reliability. The electricity system only needs to be operated with policies that allow the renewables to enter. In the long-term, a wide range of measures to support the penetration of alternatives to much higher levels (80 percent or more) has been identified,” the report says. “Building an electricity system on principles of dynamic flexibility requires an institutional transformation and the deployment of supporting physical infrastructure. Given the need to respond to climate change and the cost of the alternatives, the 21st century model for the electricity system is the least-cost approach by a wide margin”.

For more:
– see this report 


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