Energy

Throttling nuclear power production could lead to cheaper, greener energy

Throttling nuclear power produ...
Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners
Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners
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Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners
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Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners
Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners
2/2
Throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners

The 99 nuclear power plants on US soil provide nearly 20 percent of the country's energy needs and have been operating at an increasingly high capacity, from 50 percent in the early 70s, to 70 percent in the early 90s, and keeping above 90 percent since 2002. However, according to new research from MIT and the Argonne National Laboratory, throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners.

Accordingto the study, nuclear power plants do not need to operate at maximumcapacity to maximize their efficiency. Rather, by adapting theiroutput dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of clean energysources, they could create a symbiotic relationship that can minimizegreenhouse gas emissions while also decreasing the cost of electricity toconsumers as well as the cost of operations to power plant owners.

Theresearchers, led by principal investigator FrancescoGanda, developed a mathematical representation of the operationalconstraints of nuclear reactors and then used simulationmodels to estimate the cost of electricity generation, market prices,and the revenues to power plants.

"Nuclear power plants are governed by a different set of principles compared to other generators, and our approach enables the representation of these relationships in the analysis of power systems and electricity markets," said Ganda.

In particular, the study found that one of the most limiting constraints to flexible operations in nuclear power plants is the increased concentration of xenon (an effective neutron poison that lowers nuclear fuel reactivity) following every reactor power drop.

Despite this, the researchers conclude that nuclear plants can not only be efficient when notoperating at full output, but they are also also fully capable of responding dynamically to hourly electricity market prices and second-to-secondfrequency regulation needs.

Apaper describing the study appeared in a recent issue of the journalNuclear Technology.

Source:Argonne National Laboratory

The 99 nuclear power plants on US soil provide nearly 20 percent of the country's energy needs and have been operating at an increasingly high capacity, from 50 percent in the early 70s, to 70 percent in the early 90s, and keeping above 90 percent since 2002. However, according to new research from MIT and the Argonne National Laboratory, throttling down the capacity of nuclear power plants and adapting their output dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of renewable sources could lead to savings for both consumers and nuclear plant owners.

Accordingto the study, nuclear power plants do not need to operate at maximumcapacity to maximize their efficiency. Rather, by adapting theiroutput dynamically to compensate for the unpredictability of clean energysources, they could create a symbiotic relationship that can minimizegreenhouse gas emissions while also decreasing the cost of electricity toconsumers as well as the cost of operations to power plant owners.

Theresearchers, led by principal investigator FrancescoGanda, developed a mathematical representation of the operationalconstraints of nuclear reactors and then used simulationmodels to estimate the cost of electricity generation, market prices,and the revenues to power plants.

"Nuclear power plants are governed by a different set of principles compared to other generators, and our approach enables the representation of these relationships in the analysis of power systems and electricity markets," said Ganda.

In particular, the study found that one of the most limiting constraints to flexible operations in nuclear power plants is the increased concentration of xenon (an effective neutron poison that lowers nuclear fuel reactivity) following every reactor power drop.

Despite this, the researchers conclude that nuclear plants can not only be efficient when notoperating at full output, but they are also also fully capable of responding dynamically to hourly electricity market prices and second-to-secondfrequency regulation needs.

Apaper describing the study appeared in a recent issue of the journalNuclear Technology.

Source:Argonne National Laboratory

6 comments
howard54
Just asking for trouble ramping the nuclear plants up and down. It's looks good on paper but reality is that it increases the odds of human error.
Gregg Eshelman
Sounds like someone is trying to provoke an American version of Chernobyl, as a ploy to get nuclear power done away with. We need more nuclear power, and a commitment to reprocessing depleted fuel so it can be reused. Using it once then sticking it in a pool or burying it underground ("But not *here*!" everyone whines) is very anti-green. It's recycling. Why not recycle the nuclear fuel so it'll last for hundreds of years, needing only small amounts newly added to make up for decay?
Wombat56
The cost of nuclear fuel is cheap at around 1 US cent per kWh. The high cost of nuclear reactors comes from their initial capital costs which they have to amortize and pay interest on over the term of their lifetime. This usually means running the reactor flat out 24/7 to get maximum equipment utilization in the time available. I'm not sure how keen operators would be to give up up baseload supply opportunities just to act as an occasional peaking generator.
Craig Jennings
The link doesn't work for me (and according to a website check, not just me) The only thing that would have us make potential sense of why you would ever throttle a nuclear power station. At 20% why would you ever throttle them? Without the link working, I'll assume that renewable sources are going to be > 80% in the link. I wonder how far in the future the figures are on that? We'll never know, the link is broken.
LarryStevens
The question isn't whether nuclear can ramp up/down giving changing demand and renewable supply. It's whether it's better at adapting than, e.g., natural gas or some other energy source.
WolfeSA
Buildin new nuclear plants now takes strong nerves. It just takes one decent breakthrpugh in large scale battery storage tech and most nuclear plants would be outmoded. A few will still be needed for regions with no viable wind, solar, geothermal or wave resource, but essentially the nuclear era has passed. And with China desperate to roll out low cost renewables so as to affordably minimise social unrest due to pollution, you can bet the renewable and battery tech innovations have only just begun.