Thursday, June 05, 2014

Southern Co. “… in a carbon–constrained world.”

Southern Co. and its partners are building two new reactors at Georgia’s Plant Vogtle (and SCANA is building two at South Carolina’s V.C. Summer and TVA is finishing a reactor at Tennessee’s Watts Bar). We all know this. But it would be interesting to know the relationship, if any, between the decision to build these reactors and the EPA’s carbon emission rules released Monday. After all, the rules have been coming since at least 2008, so it could be figured into the thinking. Was it?
Kyle Leach, Georgia Power’s planning and policy director, has given us a least a small peek at his company’s view of this:
"We have contemplated carbon in our analysis," he said. "... We anticipated that at some time we would be in a carbon-constrained world."
With the completion of Vogtle's addition, the company will have 30 percent more generating capacity than it needs on the hottest summer day when air conditioning units are blowing full force across the state. That's even after the company closes 15 coal-burning generating units.
Now, that’s planning. I haven’t found a study that indicates what Southern thinks this will mean for carbon emissions in Georgia, but the story includes information that makes a really good point – nuclear plants not only avoids carbon emissions by virtue of not producing any – you often see this expressed as an equivalence – but new reactors can also displace carbon emitting plants, whether coal or natural gas, thus reducing emissions even further.
Now, coal and especially natural gas will continue to be ongoing concerns, but this is an exceptionally good showing for nuclear energy – and it demonstrates (or begins to demonstrate, if a demonstration was even necessary) that Southern Co., SCANA and TVA have, on the nuclear front, positioned themselves well for the world that is coming.

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