Friday, September 04, 2015

Nuclear by Northwest

energy_northwestAfter our visit to the northwest a couple of days ago (or posts below) why not stay in the rainy kingdom for awhile? It’s kind of interesting up there these days.

Washington State is in a good position because nearly all of our electricity generation is clean. Most comes from hydropower or the Columbia Generating Station, our nuclear plant, or wind. There is already a plan to phase out coal generation in the state. That alone should enable Washington to achieve our target.
This is Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann speaking to Bloomberg News. He is saying something that has been missing of coverage of the Clean Power Plan. It’s this: hydro and wind are very important to reduce CO2 emissions. And so, insists Reddemann, is nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is not a martyr or a victim nor does it require special pleading. The point is that nuclear energy answers in a big way to the goals of the Clean Power Plan, a point that has often been ignored in the press.
Reddemann redresses the balance:
The Clean Power Plan does have the potential to be effective in reducing carbon emissions from U.S. electricity generating resources, mostly by moving utilities away from coal generation to natural gas, nuclear and renewables. But we need to be seriously thinking about the alternatives for utilities that rely heavily on coal generation, which is a base load resource. Wind and solar are not viable replacements for that capacity. Natural gas is the current go-to replacement, but it emits carbon as well.
Nuclear, both the large plants that are being built in the southeast, and in 10 years, small modular reactors, can provide the capacity electricity grids need, and the carbon-free generation to meet Clean Power Plan goals. We need to do more to help make that happen.
With NuScale over the border in Oregon, it does seem that the northwest is becoming a regular modular alley for small reactors. It’ll be interesting to see what Energy Northwest does in this regard.
Of course, Reddemann heads a company that operates a nuclear facility. The importance of his point lies in the statistics: 68. 8 percent of Washington’s electricity is generated by hydro power, 7.8 percent renewable and 7.5 percent nuclear. Nuclear energy is not the solution to CO2 emission reduction, it is a solution.
That’s important in keeping options open in what promises to be a large transition in the energy profile of the United States. It’s good Bloomberg caught this aspect of the Reddemann interview and gave it some breathing space.
Unfortunately, Hamlet’s quote that provides the title doesn’t quite hit the right tone: “I am but mad north-northwest. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”  Maybe we should do something with the hawk-handsaw thing.

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