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2022 Nuclear News Round-Up

Updated: Jan 13

Recent developments in solar, uranium, and coal consumption will be greatly affecting the energy industry in the coming year. As the United States enact new efforts to increase solar and uranium utilization, coal consumption is at an all time high globally. Meanwhile, Japan is making efforts to increase the lifespan of nuclear power reactors. We are recapping everything you need to know about these developments below.

California Lowers Solar Power Rates

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted in December to give homeowners who utilize solar panels a lower rate. This new policy will determine rates based on the cost to buy clean power elsewhere. As a result, the price will vary by the time of day and utility. Until now, Californians have been required to purchase excess power at the same retail price. However, this new rule will take into account the surplus power that solar panels provide to the grid. This move will help lower income families but has received backlash from many in the industry. Solar companies within the state have claimed that this new policy will delay installations.

United State’s Strategic Uranium Reserve

At the end of 2022, Energy Fuels and Strata Energy, two US uranium producers, have won contracts to sell U3O8 to the US government. Energy Fuels settled on $18.5 million U3O8 while Strata Energy will be supplying $57 million. In July of 2022, The US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) began the process to create a uranium reserve for the United States. The plan allowed the country to purchase one million pounds of domestically-produced natural uranium concentrates (U3O8). In addition, the selected vendor was required to have a history of uranium production at a domestic facility since 2009. In the 2020 fiscal year, the US Congress budgeted for a backup uranium supply in the event of supply disruptions. These recent developments will solidify the country’s plans to secure a backup uranium supply.

Japan’s New Nuclear Policy

Since 2013, Japan has implemented a 40 year operating rule for nuclear power reactors. Once the 40 years nears its end, an inspection can be requested that may allow the plant to remain operational for an additional 20 years. However, after a meeting in December, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved a new drafted rule that could let reactors remain in use for longer than the 60 year limit. The amendment states that the reactors will be evaluated at the 30 year mark to see if they can remain operational. At that point, an evaluation will occur every 10 years to determine whether it can remain in use for another decade. The amendment will need to be approved by parliament before it is enacted.

Coal Consumption Skyrockets

At the end of 2023, coal consumption reached an all-time high and globally, surpassed 8 billion tons. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) annual report on coal forecasted consumption rising by 1.2% and will remain at this high level until 2025. Coal is projected to be a main source of energy for the foreseeable future. This surge in coal consumption can be credited to multiple different global events that greatly affected gas supply. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine produced high gas prices and supply disruptions. Meanwhile, droughts in specific regions increased the demand for electricity. These factors have created a surge in coal demand, setting the stage for China, India, and Indonesia to set new records for production for 2022.

With numerous energy policy developments and the coal consumption surge, it is crucial for nuclear to continue to gain momentum. Nuclear energy advancements have the ability to drive our world into the future. At ARC, we support nuclear energy and will continue to keep you updated on any upcoming industry news.

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