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A report by S&P Global Platts, an independent research organization for energy markets, has reported that 1.7 GW of US nuclear power is expected to retire in 2020.
Their report details which plants are retiring, what they are expected to be replaced by, why they are replaced, and what this means for nuclear energy in the future.
This is an overview of that report.
What Nuclear Plants Are Closing?
There are two plants closing:
- Indian Point Unit 2 A nuclear plant owned by Entergy and located 24 miles north of New York City.
- Duane Arnold Unit 1 A nuclear plant owned by NextEra Energy and located near Palo, Iowa.
These power plants add up to 1.7GW of energy capacity. Of course, this doesn't mean this energy capacity won't be replaced. The Indian Point reactor's capacity is expected to be replaced through natural gas, while the Duane unit will be replaced through wind farms in the area.
These are not the only plants closing. In fact, more plants are scheduled to retire in 2021. So why is this?
According to the report, it's because of increased competition in deregulated markets. Natural gas has become very cost competitive compared to nuclear. On top of this, renewable subsidies have further decreased the price of renewable energy sources.
What Does This Mean For Nuclear Energy?
This may make it seem like nuclear energy can't compete in a deregulated market. But it is too early to count nuclear generation out.
This is because nuclear generation is actually a zero-carbon energy producer. With many goals proposed to get to 100% clean energy, nuclear may be a key part of that puzzle. That is why many states are advocating for zero-carbon subsidies that include nuclear energy (along with other renewables). In fact, Ohio's HB 6 did just that to keep nuclear plants open.
The report also states that much smaller nuclear reactors could be used to supplement renewable energy in the future. These would be 300 MW plants that would support energy production when renewables are not generating power.
So while nuclear plants may be closing now, they will likely still be a part of our clean energy future.