The Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which represents the US nuclear energy industry, has called for reforms to electricity markets and a “systematic effort” to create the conditions necessary to deploy advanced reactor technologies. In 58 pages of comments to the US Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), a major report on challenges facing the US energy sector, NEI makes clear the cost of shutting existing NPPs, noting that 14 reactors have been shut down, or announced their closure, in recent years. NEI says those closures are already beginning to have negative effects in three major areas: loss of fuel and technology diversity, higher electricity costs, and higher carbon emissions.
The first QER, published in April 2015, examined the energy transmission, storage and distribution infrastructure. The QER now being developed is scheduled for release later this year and will focus on an integrated assessment of the US electricity system. In its submission, NEI recommended that the QER should begin by developing an inventory of challenges facing the US electric power sector. It described the "progressive loss" of fuel and technology diversity and the "ever-increasing dependence on natural gas" as a "disturbing trend".
NEI emphasized that short-term, unsustainable, price signals rather than long-term market fundamentals are the reason for many recent premature closures of nuclear power plants. "Market conditions are forcing companies to make decisions that our nation will regret for the next 20 or 30 years, or longer," it said.
NEI said the government should also do more to help support new nuclear technologies. The DOE's current 50-50 cost-shared Licensing Technical Support programme, intended to carry a single small modular reactor through NRC design certification - was not sufficient and NEI called for funding to take "at least" two reactor designs through the process. It said two or more advanced non-light water reactors to be demonstrated by 2025, with at least two designs commercially available for construction in the US by 2030.