Nuclear Uprates Help US Set Record and Advanced Uprates Will Be the Future

US nuclear power plants set a new record for annual power generation in 2018. Capacity additions from plant uprates, combined with shorter refueling maintenance cycles, enabled the country’s nuclear plants to produce 807.1 million MWh in 2018, surpassing the previous peak figure of 807.0 million MWh which was recorded in 2010. Georgia Power’s Vogtle 3 and 4 – due to come online in 2021 and 2022 – will add 2.2 GWe of additional power, but this will not offset the capacity that is expected to retire over the next seven years based on announced retirements. Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Three Mile Island are expected to retire this year. Twelve reactors by 2025 will see US nuclear capacity fall by 10.5 GWe.

Lightbridge Advanced Metallic Fuel Uprates

Lightbridge is company that is developing advanced nuclear fuel. The fuel has a different shape with more surface area. The cross-section can look like a plus sign instead of a circle. They have partnered with the French nuclear companies and should new full-length fuel rods in a commercial nuclear reactor in 2021. They can enable uprates as high as 30% more power. The Lightbridge technology could economically offset and grow America’s nuclear power to 1000 TWh in the 2030s in spite of some of the shutdowns. Lightbridge’s metal fuel technology came out of the research and development work for their thorium-based seed-and-blanket fuel assembly. The metallic seed rods used in their seed-and-blanket design are capable of operating safely at increased power density compared to standard uranium oxide fuel. Lightbridge determined that a fuel assembly comprised of only metallic fuel rods could provide significant benefits to a nuclear power plant. Lightbridge initial target market worldwide is approximately 127 GWe. Our target market is projected to grow to 261 GWe by 2030.
Lightbridge is targeting large nuclear reactors with 20+ years of remaining operating license
SOURCES – Lightbridge, World Nuclear News Written By Brian Wang.

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