Generating electricity and operating buildings are responsible for half of global energy demand and CO2 emissions. Nuclear power can be the cheapest, fastest way to provide reliable heat and power and to halve emissions
By Robert Hargraves, July 14, 2022, Wall Street Journal
The rising cost of energy makes winter expensive. The price of heating oil in New England rose from $3 a gallon to $5 last winter, with $6 possible this year in some areas as the war in Ukraine disrupts energy markets. Natural-gas prices may more than double heating costs this winter. Nuclear power offers a solution.
Nuclear plants heat water, producing steam that spins turbine generators. The turbines convert about a third of the steam’s heat into electricity. The other two-thirds is wasted, typically absorbed by flowing river or ocean water or cooling towers.
Cogeneration is a way to use rejected heat in buildings. Pipes circulate hot water or steam in district heating systems such as those at Columbia and New York universities. Consolidated Edison, in New York City, operates the world’s largest district heating system.
Its heat source is fossil fuels, but cogeneration is well-suited to use the waste heat generated by nuclear power.
China operates four AP1000 nuclear plants, designed by Westinghouse Electric Co. Each generates 1,110 megawatts of electricity. China added cogeneration and district heating to two AP1000 units in Haiyang, so the rejected heat now heats seven million square feet of building space instead of being wasted, to be expanded to 200 million square feet with later modifications.
China’s Power Investing Corp. has planned four units of the CAP1400, a more powerful version of the AP1000, at Haiyang. These reactors will provide all 658,000 residents with heat and generate electric power for a third of Shandong province—population 102 million. China has also developed the DHR400 lowpressure reactor to heat water for 200,000 three-bedroom apartments.
By contrast, Georgia Power is struggling to build the first AP1000s in the U.S., at $9 a watt of generating capacity.
That is triple China’s cost, triple the United Arab Emirates’ cost for four South Korean reactors and triple the Massachusetts Institute of Technology cost estimate for future U.S. AP1000s.
Generating electricity and operating buildings is responsible for half of global energy demand and CO2 emissions. Nuclear power can be the cheapest, fastest way to provide reliable heat and power and to halve emissions. Let the U.S. lead in regulatory efficiency and put a nuclear power plant in every city’s backyard.
Robert Hargraves teaches at Dartmouth’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is a cofounder of ThorCon International, a nuclear engineering company.