Gas vs. NuclearJuly 8, 2013
The US nuclear power industry is currently suffering its largest contraction ever, with 4 plants shut down already this year. Some blame this on the Shale Revolution and its concurrent glut of cheap natural gas (although others in the industry recognize the more complicated reasons). One of those reasons is the tremendous up front cost of large scale nuclear reactors. For that reason, many are advocating a move to Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), increasing numbers of which are targeted to come online over the next decade. In the decades after that, High Temperature, Gas Cooled Reactors (HTGRs) are predicted to take up the increasing demand for electricity. Still, the economics of reactor construction and waste disposal remain problematic, especially with the specter of cheap gas plants looming over all.
Gas and Nuclear power do not have to be at odds, however, as I wrote about last week. The hybrid nuclear reactor unites a small reactor with a gas fired turbine to create a highly efficient – and clean – energy producer. Natural gas has been hailed as a potential “bridge to a low carbon future.” Nuclear power will almost necessarily be part of that future, so gas can actually work as a bridge directly to nuclear.