There is a lot going on in nuclear energy right now, both in the United States and internationally. Some places are working to develop and build new small modular and advanced reactor designs. Elsewhere, nuclear plants are being phased out and shut down, in others phase out decisions are being rethought, and in still others shuttered reactors are being painstakingly brought back online.
Some countries are building new nuclear units faster than ever before, and others are assessing fragile grids under the realization that a “too slow to build” nuclear project they passed over ten or twenty years ago would come in handy in the here and now.
The current story of nuclear power is not a monolith. It is an area of energy policy that hasn’t always received a lot of attention, as reactors constructed in the 1970s and 80s quietly chugged away for decades cranking out reliable base load power.
We take things for granted when they are working. But nuclear reactor shutdowns in recent years, at Indian Point in New York, and across the entire German nuclear fleet, have shown that closing these reliable base load units ahead of schedule has consequences for electricity prices and grid composition and reliability.
Keep an eye out for a series of articles on these topics. I will be covering the good, the bad, and the novel when it comes to nuclear policy decisions and the development and roll out of new technologies.
The articles in this series will cover four such topics.
Finland recently brought a new reactor online, the largest in Europe at a whopping 1.6 gigawatts, the project was long over schedule, taking 18 years to complete, but is already lowering electricity prices.
France recently passed a bill to speed its construction of new nuclear reactors. The bill would also reverse a poorly thought out rule that artificially limited the french grid to be no more than 50 percent nuclear at any given time.
Belgium has a planned nuclear exit similar to that of Germany, but following decreased gas supplies as a result of the war in Ukraine, discussions have been ongoing to restart two units that were originally set to be decommissioned in 2025, but have had their operating lives extended by 10 years in response to the energy crisis.
Illinois is on the brink of repealing a more than 35 year ban on new nuclear plants.
These are just a few of the pressing issues in the nuclear sphere right now, and other topics, including the continued impacts of the energiewende in Germany, new SMR developments in the U.S. and abroad, the Japanese restarting of previously decommissioned reactors, and others will be covered in this space as well.