Nuclear Struggles with Variable Electricity Pricing

TVA Watts Bar nuclear

by | Oct 10, 2013

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TVA Watts Bar nuclearThe financial and operational pressures on nuclear power plants are manifold, and show no sign of abating. Two articles out this week highlight one major concern and one potential concern for nuclear operators: variable electricity pricing and material shortages.

Hourly energy pricing presents many benefits for commercial customers, but for nuclear such pricing is a “substantial blow,” the New York Times says. Nuclear plants are the least flexible energy resource, unable to ramp their output up and down in response to demand. In areas with a lot of nuclear power, energy storage becomes an especially vital tool for utilities trying to balance energy supply and demand, as the latest issue of EL Insights explains. Unfortunately, the same variable pricing that encourages commercial and industrial energy storage also makes life difficult for the nuclear operators.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office says 65 out of 100 US reactors rely on lithium-7, which is produced only in China and Russia, and the supply may be drying up. But the GAO says utilities do not seem concerned about the problem.

These companies, it seems, have enough to worry about, including low natural gas prices, low wholesale electricity prices, high operating costs and public safety concerns.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Tennessee Valley Authority

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