September Nuclear News Roundup
Welcome to our September Nuclear News Roundup! This month has been eventful for the nuclear industry with reports highlighting positive trends in nuclear fuel cycles, tentative agreements on nuclear project recoveries, and the potential of advanced reactors in direct air capture systems. Let’s dive into these developments!
Positive Outlook for Global Nuclear Fuel Cycle
According to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Association's flagship fuel cycle report, the future is bright for the global nuclear fuel cycle. This optimism is spurred by a recovering uranium market and the renewed interest in nuclear power as a secure energy source amidst geopolitical instability, like the Russia-Ukraine war.
The report outlines three potential scenarios for the global nuclear generating capacity from 2023-2040:
Reference Scenario: Projects growth from the current 391 GWe to 444 GWe by 2030 and 686 GWe by 2040, based on existing government and utility targets.
Lower Scenario: Predicts a modest growth to 409 GWe by 2030 and 487 GWe by 2040, factoring in potential delays in projects.
Upper Scenario: Envisions rapid growth to 490 GWe by 2030 and a whopping 931 GWe by 2040 under more favorable conditions.
Notably, all scenarios account for contributions from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), whose successful deployment will require significant investment and industrialization.
The report discusses the growing demand for uranium. While sufficient resources are believed to be available to meet this demand, new investments in mining and innovative techniques are essential, particularly as existing mines taper down their production. There's also a call for expansion in conversion and enrichment capacities to meet the increasing need for nuclear fuel.
Cost Recovery Deal for Vogtle-3 and -4 Nuclear Expansion
Georgia Power recently reached a tentative agreement with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) concerning the recovery of costs for the Vogtle-3 and -4 nuclear expansion project. The new agreement proposes a cost cap of $7.562 billion recoverable from ratepayers, marking a $2.626 billion reduction from the initial projected cost of $10.188 billion. This comes with the caveat that Unit 4 must be operational by March 31, 2024. Any delays beyond this will be financially covered by Georgia Power.
In terms of consumer impact, the deal proposes an annual base rate increase of $729 million for Georgia Power. This would result in a monthly increase of approximately $8.95 for a typical residential customer. However, an expanded Income Qualified Senior Discount program will provide a $33.50 monthly discount for an additional 96,000 customers.
Advanced Reactors Could Lower Direct Air Capture Costs
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests that advanced nuclear reactors could make direct air capture (DAC) systems more cost-effective. The study shows a potential cost reduction of up to 13% for solid sorbent systems and up to 7% for liquid solvent systems when coupled with advanced nuclear reactors, as opposed to fossil-fuel-powered DAC systems.
The study explores the feasibility of various types of advanced reactors, including advanced pressurized water reactors, sodium-cooled fast reactors, and very high-temperature reactors, paired with both low and high-temperature DAC systems. It indicates that nuclear energy could play a pivotal role not just in electricity generation but also in carbon capture, aligning well with the Biden Administration’s net-zero economy goal by 2050.
The Future of Nuclear Energy Continues Onward and Upward
The nuclear industry is seeing numerous positive developments, from optimistic projections in nuclear capacity to cost-saving measures in ongoing projects and innovations that extend beyond electricity generation. While challenges remain, such as the need for significant investments and timely actions, the path forward offers promising opportunities for the industry to contribute meaningfully to global energy needs and climate goals.
Stay tuned for more updates and developments in next month’s edition of our Nuclear News Roundup.