New England currently experiences significant issues concerning its energy industry, which results in conflicting policies. On the one hand, policies support the deployment and development of solar and wind energy capacity in the region. These alternative sources of power displace energy from fossil plants and their emissions. But, despite substantial subsidies, the low capacity factors of wind energy and the low capacity factors of PV (about 11%) require extensive flexible generation. This results in increasing reliance on gas and oil-burning facilities in the winter’s increasing emissions. On the other hand, policies that promote electrification (replacing the use of gas and oil for heating, cooling, and transportation) can increase peak energy needs from oil and gas. The growing recognition that promoting high levels of intermittent generation may not achieve emission reductions can bring new interest in nuclear plants.
Proposed Policy Issues
As discussed above, proposed policies should recognize the potential economic and environmental benefits associated with keeping existing nuclear plants running and adding future nuclear capacity as existing plants retire. Furthermore, the reintroduction of new nuclear power to the area will need a resolution of a few policy issues. Firstly, modern education and training initiatives should be implemented here. NuScale stipulates that new “operator, mechanical, electrical, I&C, health physics, chemistry, and engineering programs” are required (38). Secondly, policymakers should draw attention to the successful management of used nuclear fuel and possible future recycling. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy are responsible for these issues, and they should address them adequately (Colbert 42). In addition to that, specific policy issues should focus on the completion of licensing for the NuScale Small Modular Reactor (SMR). This policy challenge is significant because it determines whether the given advanced nuclear technology will eventually benefit New England citizens and businesses. NuScale will hopefully overcome challenges to its nuclear-licensing initiatives.
Impact of New Policies
The policies above, when addressed properly, make it possible to suppose that NuScale technology will imply a few benefits. Firstly, it will lead to a higher safety of advanced nuclear technologies. It is said that the probability of damage to a NuScale reactor is approximately one event per three billion years (Colbert 24). Secondly, the policies are expected to improve the environment by reducing harmful emissions. Furthermore, this technology has lower carbon footprints in comparison with those from solar power stations (Colbert 34).
At the same time, the policies will positively influence the economics of NuScale technology. Firstly, it is represented by a competitive Levelized cost of electricity that is estimated at $65/MWh, which is useful for ordinary citizens (Colbert 61). It assumes a 95% capacity factor, meaning that if they reduce utilization to follow load, this could be lower, and the total cost could be higher per MWh. Secondly, the NuScale power plant will feature a better overnight capital cost compared to other sources of power (Colbert 61). Finally, one should also mention that such power plants imply lower operating costs. However, lower operating costs may be severe because an NRC requires specific running for end units, and an extensive security force regardless of size. Thus, the given impact should make the general public support the reintroduction of nuclear energy stations to the New England area. In conclusion, fuel costs for smaller plants may be higher due to lower volume.
Colbert, Chris. NuScale Overview: ENGY. 5180 – Energy Technology, Policy, and Economics. NuScale, 2019.