Neutron Economy – the EPA issued its first-ever regulation on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, limiting emissions to 1000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity produced. Given the fact that the average coal plant vastly exceeds this limit (weighing in around 1,768 lbs CO2 per megawatt-hour), the implications of the move seem rather obvious – essentially banning new coal plants without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology (and thus greatly increasing the cost of new coal plants), thereby making good on President (then-candidate) Obama’s promise to “bankrupt” anyone who still desired to build new power plants fueled by coal.
The EPA mandate has a marginal but positive impact on new nuclear, namely by formalizing the winnowing down of new baseload capacity to a race between nuclear and natural gas, the latter of which has of course been buoyed by low prices from the recent boom in shale gas production.
Meanwhile, if the EPA’s mandate is a glimmer of opportunity for the nuclear industry, it’s an outright giveaway for natural gas. The average natural gas plant emits roughly half the CO2 of a standard coal plant (about 850 pounds per MWh), and meanwhile the EPA estimates that 95% of current natural gas power capacity would pass muster under the new rules. Thus, the choice of a convenient round number of 1000 pounds per MWh seems all the less arbitrary – in fact it seems almost entirely designed to benefit natural gas at the expense of coal.
Next Big Future – Westinghouse wins with NRC action that gives VC Summers licenses for two reactors. They should be completed by 2017 and 2018.
Next Big Future – Sanmen Westinghouse AP1000 reactor has been connected to offsite power. On track for 2013 startup. China’s other reactors are on track.