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US examine assesses potential for coal-to-nuclear conversion : Power & Atmosphere

14 September 2022

A whole bunch of coal energy plant websites throughout the USA may very well be transformed to nuclear plant websites, offering large decarbonisation good points in addition to bringing tangible financial, employment and environmental advantages to the communities the place these vegetation are positioned, a brand new US Division of Power (DOE) examine has discovered.

A whole bunch of US coal energy plant websites may very well be transformed to nuclear energy vegetation (Picture: DOE)

A coal-to-nuclear (C2N) transition – siting a nuclear reactor on the website of a lately retired coal energy plant – might assist enhance US nuclear capability to greater than 350 GWe, Investigating Advantages and Challenges of Changing Retiring Coal Vegetation into Nuclear Vegetation discovered. The USA’s present nuclear fleet has a mixed capability of 95 GWe.

The report is underpinned by a examine carried out by the Argonne, Idaho and Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratories, sponsored by the DOE Workplace of Nuclear Power. It’s guided by three overarching questions: the place within the USA are retired coal amenities positioned and what components make a website possible for transition; what components of expertise, value, and undertaking timeline drive investor economics over such a choice; and the way will C2N affect native communities?

The group screened lately retired and energetic coal plant websites to determine 157 retired and 237 working coal vegetation websites as potential candidates for a C2N transition, which it additional evaluated on parameters together with inhabitants density, distance from seismic fault strains, flooding potential, and close by wetlands , to find out if they might safely host a nuclear energy plant. It discovered that 80% of the potential websites are appropriate for internet hosting superior nuclear energy vegetation of various dimension and sort, relying on the scale of the location being transformed.

The group then evaluated a case examine of detailed impacts and potential outcomes from a C2N transition at a hypothetical website, contemplating varied nuclear expertise sorts for a spread of eventualities together with massive light-water reactors, small modular reactors, sodium-cooled quick reactors and really high-temperature reactors.

On the regional degree, changing a big coal plant website with a nuclear energy plant of equal dimension might present some 650 jobs and USD275 million of financial exercise, the report discovered. These jobs are unfold throughout the plant, the provision chain supporting the plant, and the group surrounding the plant and most usually include wages which might be about 25% greater than some other vitality expertise. Nuclear energy plant initiatives might additionally profit from preserving the present skilled workforce in communities round retiring coal plant websites, which already possess the required expertise and data that may very well be transferred to work at a nuclear energy plant.

Reusing present coal infrastructure for brand new superior nuclear reactors can result in development value financial savings of 15-35%, the report discovered. Utilizing present land, grid connections, workplace buildings, electrical gear similar to transmission connections and switchyards, and civil infrastructure might additionally save hundreds of thousands of {dollars} upfront.

Financial potential exists for house owners of coal energy vegetation – and the communities the place they’re positioned – from a C2N transition, the report concludes, with a possible additional benefit for coal communities to be “first movers” in what the authors say may very well be a sequence of many C2N transitions throughout the USA. Though the examine’s findings inform solely at a normal degree, the outcomes may very well be used to arrange extra detailed, in-depth analyzes to permit extra correct evaluations particular to a selected coal plant or nuclear expertise design.

The report was subjected to impartial peer opinions by consultants in programs engineering and regional financial modeling to judge evaluation and assumptions.

The potential for changing coal energy vegetation with nuclear capability is being actively explored within the USA and elsewhere. TerraPower in 2021 introduced plans to construct an illustration unit of its Natrium sodium-cooled quick reactor at a retired coal plant website in Wyoming; earlier this 12 months, the Maryland Power Administration introduced its help for work to judge the opportunity of repurposing a coal-fired electrical producing facility with X-energy’s Xe-100 small modular reactor; and Holtec Worldwide lately stated it’s contemplating coal plant websites as doable areas for its SMR-160 with plans to convey the primary unit on-line as early as 2029. In Poland, NuScale is exploring with vitality firm Unimot and copper and silver producer KGHM prospects for its reactors to switch coal-fired energy vegetation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear Information

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