This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

Stan Kaplan's picture
Energy Consultant KeyLogic

B.A., 1974, History, Rutgers University M.A., 1977, Public Policy, Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at AustinExpertise: Electric power and fuel marketsStan has...

  • Member since 2006
  • 38 items added with 40,204 views
  • Aug 13, 2020
  • 1813 views

There is a misconception that nuclear (and coal) plants have inherently superior reliability than other generation sources.  Coal plants and their transportation links can fail in bad weather, including very cold weather.  A nuclear plant must go offline if it loses redundant access to grid power, which is what happened in this case.  There is no obvious reason to believe that a coal or nuclear plant is any more reliable than, for example, a natural gas plant with firm transportation and/or fuel oil backup.

Stan Kaplan's picture
Thank Stan for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member
Discussions
Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 13, 2020

There is no obvious reason to believe that a coal or nuclear plant is any more reliable than, for example, a natural gas plant with firm transportation and/or fuel oil backup

I know a failed DOE bailout plan that begs to differ! But that failed for a reason

Stan Kaplan's picture
Stan Kaplan on Aug 13, 2020

What are you referring to?

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 13, 2020

I was alluding to the grid resiliency pricing rule

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 16, 2020

Not so fast, Matt. The Grid Resiliency Pricing Rule (GRPR) was renamed the Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR), and remains in effect to this day. A slightly different mechanism was used to achieve the same end.

Apparently, FERC had had enough of allowing children to drive the energy bus. Now, the adults are in charge.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Aug 13, 2020

For sure the nuclear (and coal) plants have inherently superior reliability than other generation sources in normal operation conditions. Although abnormal meteorological conditions are rear events but it might happen.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 13, 2020

"There is no obvious reason to believe that a coal or nuclear plant is any more reliable than, for example, a natural gas plant with firm transportation and/or fuel oil backup."

Duane Arnold shut down because the storm took down transmission lines that were providing power to the plant. A new 700 MWh gas plant in Marshalltown, IA without "black start" capability likely went offline temporarily, too - fuel source had nothing to do it.

The difference is Marshalltown generates 550,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year; Duane Arnold generates none.

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Aug 14, 2020

The main difference of course is on-site fuel which both nuclear and coal have.   Most combined cycle plants do not maintain a fuel oil back due to the cost and complexity of this so we cannot be assured that they will have on-site fuel.  On-site distributed generation is one way to reduce the risk of transmission line damage when most of our generation remains concentrated in large generation facilities that the public does not want to see.  

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 14, 2020

The smart grid and microgrid will also help create those infrastructural backups

Stan Kaplan's picture
Stan Kaplan on Aug 17, 2020

As of 2018 (the last year full EIA data is available; 2019 will be out soon) there was 391.5 GW of NG-fired combined cycle and stand-alone gas turbine capacity.  Of this 26% (102 GW) was capable of switching to oil, where capable means the unit has in operable condition the equipment including storage tanks to make a switch.  If necessary, there is little doubt much more capacity could be retrofitted, keeping in mind that environmental rules often limit severely the number of hours duel fuel units can burn oil.

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Aug 18, 2020

Stan - you are right on the environmental limits.  You make my point - 1 in 4 have oil backup, 100% of nuclear and coal plants have months of on-site fuel.  The good news is that gas supply is pretty reliable, as long as we don't switch to an all electric gas transmission network!  We are far from there.  

There are some locations that incentivize liquid fuel in particular the NE, north of NYC due to highly constraints natural gas supply - heating has priority during cold snaps and most plants do not have firm gas supply contracts (ISO rules are limiting) so they tend to have on-site liquid fuel.  This will be highly limiting in any future electrification model.  

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »