Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting Up to Speed on Nuclear Issues

home_branding_logo We don’t normally point you to NEI’s content because we assume you know it’s there and will go there – as well as to the NRC, ANS and other such worthy organizations – for all your nuclear knowledge needs. However, with energy issues heating up (so to speak), NEI has been busily putting together some information that wraps some good facts into handy little reference pieces.

For example:

New Nuclear Plants: An Engine for Job Creation, Economic Growth iterates points we make here frequently: that building new plants is an engine for employment, both directly and for allied industries (such as parts manufacturing) and for communities that surround a new plant. It all comes down to this:

Absent investment stimulus, the current pace of job creation will slow and the prospect of tens of thousands of new U.S. jobs could recede into the distant future or disappear completely.

That about gets it.

And about those allied jobs that support new plants? New Nuclear Plants Create Opportunities to Expand US Manufacturing, Create Jobs discusses it in detail:

Deployment of new nuclear power plants in the numbers necessary to reduce carbon emissions depends on a robust supply chain of nuclear manufacturers. Construction of new nuclear plants requires hundreds of components and subcomponents, which in turn requires a deep and diverse supplier base.

And although it would be wildly presumptuous to suggest that a nuclear renaissance could spur a revival of the U.S. manufacturing base, it certainly will provide numerous manufacturing opportunities:

Today, U.S. manufacturers of components for new nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities are adding to design and engineering staff, expanding their capability to manufacture nuclear-grade components, and building new manufacturing facilities in preparation for new reactor construction in the U.S. and abroad.

And that’s only up to now.

Finally, what are the measurable benefits of a nuclear plant build out? The Economic Benefits of New Nuclear Power Plant Development provides a lot of interesting numbers (and links so you can double-check them):

For every MWh generated by a coal plant, one metric ton of CO2 is produced. For every MWh generated by a gas plant, one-half of a metric ton of CO2 is produced. According to the previous calculation above, 64,000 MW would generate 505 bkWh which therefore equates to avoiding 505 million metric tons of CO2 if the 46 new reactors replaced all coal plants or avoiding 252 million metric tons of CO2 if the 46 new reactors replaced all gas plants. According to the EPA, the average passenger car emits 5.2 metric tons of CO2 each year. 505 mmt of CO2 is equivalent to the emissions of 97 million passenger cars. 252 mmt of CO2 is equivalent to the emissions of 49 million passenger cars.

Well, you get the idea. Do take a look at these papers.

Especially with a major speech on energy from President Obama coming up tomorrow – and we’ve noted with interest some of the more overtly positive things he’s been saying about nuclear energy lately – we expect nuclear energy, along with renewable energy sources and coal, to take a key role in the upcoming consideration of the Senate climate change bill.  These papers are a great way to get up to speed on some of the issues.

2 comments:

Bill said...

"505 bkWh"

Blech. A billion thousand is a trillion (tera-):
'505 TW·h'.

[/pedant]

Brian Mays said...

Bill - If you're familiar with traditional engineering practices in the US, then you should be relieved that these numbers are at least expressed in SI units instead of units based on British measures. Otherwise, the numbers would be in "trillions of BTU" or "quads."

By the way, if you're going to be pedantic, then why did you pick on one unit and not another? Shouldn't "million metric tons" be expressed as either megatonnes (Mt) or teragrams (Tg)? After all, a "billion thousand" is also a "million thousand thousand."