August 19, 2007

Nuclear power uprates

Many people who are in favor of developing wind energy and solar energy use the argument that nuclear energy is slower to develop. I am in favor of wind energy and solar energy development, but I recognize that there has been less of both than new nuclear power even without new nuclear reactors. The total wind energy in the USA is now at 31 billion kwh. Nuclear is at 780 billion kwh and this increased by 200 billion kwh since 1990.

total nuclear power by year

Most of the increase has been from operating efficiency increasing from 56% to 90% and over 4.8GW of power uprates.

A discussion of the three kinds of power uprates for nuclear reactors In addition to the 4,845 MWe of approved uprates through mid-2006, the NRC is reviewing pending applications for another 1,057 MWe to be added by early 2008. In addition, based on a September 2006 survey, the NRC expects 25 additional uprate applications from 2007 to 2011 that will increase output by another 4,150 MWe.

Extended power (20%) uprates are most often performed on boiling water reactors (BWRs).

Florida Power & Light Co. wants to upgrade each of its four nuclear reactors - two at the St. Lucie plant on Hutchinson Island and two others at the Turkey Point plant near Miami. The move would add 414 megawatts of power to the grid between 2011 and 2012. FPL, owned by FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL, $58.97), also reiterated that it wants to build two more reactors at Turkey Point by 2018 and 2020 and wants to choose from one of five reactor designs by early next year.

Hypothetically, U.S. utilities could add the equivalent of 20 new nuclear reactors by 2020 through the uprate by upgrading the maximum power level of the nation’s existing 104 reactors. The National Energy Policy estimates the nuclear up-rate potential at 12,000 MW. Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), in its Vision 2020 publication, expects the industry to add 10,000 MW of capacity through increased efficiency and improved performance of the existing 104 reactors. NEI also states that a cornerstone of the nuclear industry's vision is to add 50,000 MW of new generating capacity by 2020. So far public plans are for 5 new reactors that will supply about 9GW by 2020. 12GW of power uprates and 9GW of new reactors would be about 200 billion kwh of power added each year by 2020. I believe that more of the 29 license applications will be submitted over the next two years and perhaps half will be completed by 2020. Eleven more reactors in addition to the other five for about 17GW more power for a total of about 360 billion kwh in added power or an average of about 20 billion kwh per year in new nuclear power. This is a faster rate than what wind power has been able to achieve in the USA.

The US wind industry hopes to achieve the power additions described above. Note: 1GW of added wind is about 2.5 billion kwh while 1GW of nuclear is 8.5 billion kwh because of the operating efficiency. (sometimes the wind is not blowing)

Of the four incomplete reactors, Browns Ferry 1 has been completed and activated, Watts Bar 2 has announced plans for 2013 completion. Atlantic Energy (Seabrook) 2 in New Hampshire, and Washington Public Power System 1 are the other two incomplete reactors.

As I have noted before, MIT researchers have found a way to boost the amount of energy that nuclear reactors produce by 50%.

Westinghouse is interested in commercializing the new design because the greater efficiencies achievable with the annular fuel would allow new light-water reactors to be significantly smaller, Lahoda says. "The biggest cost in a nuclear reactor is the building... If you can reduce the size of these things—especially the containment building—or keep them the same size and get more power out of them, then you've made money," he explains. At least 10 years of work would be required to commercialize the new technology in the U.S., Lahoda predicts.

The American Wind Energy Association hopes to get 6% of the US electricity generated by wind by 2020 This would be about 300 billion kwh or nine to ten times more wind power than is generated today by wind (31 billion kwh) The EIA project wind power to increase form 31 billion kwh to 52 billion kwh.


Muckerheide said...

In your ref EIA projection for renewable energy, Table 16, wind capacity and generation data are highly suspect. Actual wind capacity has been recently increasing in the range of 2500 to 4000 MWe/year. This is shown in the table, increasing from 7 to 16 GWe from 2004-2007. But then it stops, increasing only zero to about 200 MWe per year until 2020.

Wind generation is shown as increasing from 14 to 46 BkWh from just 2004-2007, but then to just 51 BkWh in 2020.

This seems to be either as ignorant or intentionally manipulated as EIA is with nuclear power projections.

Regards, Jim Muckerheide

bw said...

The EIA projection there does seem a bit off. Using the business as usual case for the american wind industry it looks like a continuation of 2000 to 4500 MWe/year or about 5 billion kwh to 13 billion kwh per year. 9 billion kwh per year avg to 2020. so about 120 billion kwh added.

The AWEA growth case which would involve more government policy commitment and coordinated building of grid infrastructure would be about double to about 240 billion kwh.

The new nuclear energy versus new wind would either still be more or about the same.

I hope that both get built as fast as possible to reduce the addition of a base case of 1000 billion kwh of coal to go with the existing 2000 billion kwh. More coal is more deaths from air pollution and coal mining and coal transportation.