U.S. needs 45 more nuclear reactors by 2030: study

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In order to meet lofty climate goals, the U.S. power industry should by 2030 build 45 more nuclear power reactors, cleaner coal power plants, and cut electricity consumption 8 percent, a power industry study issued on Monday showed.

Nuclear reactor operators man the control room at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens, Alabama, June 21, 2007. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The report from the Electric Power Research Institute offers insight into how the power industry will have to respond to likely strict emissions-cutting requirements, such as included in the Waxman-Markey climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic leaders expect the bill to be voted on by the Senate in October.

The House version of the bill calls for an 83-percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, from 2005 levels. The EPRI study used guidance of 80-percent by 2050 reductions.

“The research shows that the (electricity) sector could potentially reduce annual CO2 emissions by 2030 by 41 percent relative to 2005 emissions,” but will require advances in and applications of technology, said the EPRI of its “Prism and Merge” study.

The study also assumes that by 2030, 100 million plug-in electric cars and trucks will be on U.S. roads.

It also calls for a four-fold increase in current solar and wind power generation in the next two decades.

This is the second such EPRI study. EPRI researchers made presentations of its 2007 data to the United Nations and a handful of nations, the EPRI says.

The price of electricity will increase, but the increases will be limited if a full range of power generation and efficiency options are used, the EPRI said.

“Deployment of the full portfolio could result in an 80 percent increase in the real wholesale cost of electricity by 2050 relative to current costs, compared with a projected increase of more than 210 percent with a limited portfolio,” The EPRI said.

Those figures assume that the power sector can cut $1 trillion in costs of cutting emissions by 2050.

The “limited portfolio” would exclude new nuclear power plants and carbon capture and storage of emissions from fossil-fuel plants, particularly coal-burning ones.

About half the power delivered in the United States today comes from coal plants, about 20 percent from nuclear plants and 20 percent from natural gas plants. There are 104 working nuclear power reactors.

In the past several years, environmentalists and concerns of increased costs of emitting carbon have scuttled most plants for coal power plants. Power industry advocates hope that carbon capture and sequestration plants -- still unproven and expensive for utility scale -- will ease pressure on coal power plant developers.

Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Marguerita Choy