By Stephen Heiser -
An approximate 38-megawatt increase in output at an Exelon Nuclear plant last week launched a series of planned power uprates across the company’s nuclear fleet that will generate between 1,300 and 1,500 megawatts of additional generation capacity within eight years without turning a spade of earth, Exelon Nuclear President and Chief Nuclear Officer Charles (Chip) Pardee said today.
The first of the new, carbon-free nuclear megawatts was officially confirmed last week following equipment upgrades at Exelon’s Quad Cities nuclear plant near Cordova, Ill. Other uprate projects are underway and Exelon plans to have the full measure of new megawatts on the grid by 2017.
“With these uprates, we will be able to produce the equivalent output of a new advanced nuclear reactor, and we’ll bring it to market in a timeframe commensurate with the fastest new construction,” Pardee said. “These uprates are a critical component of Exelon 2020, the company’s plan to eliminate the equivalent of its 2001 carbon footprint by 2020.”
Uprate projects improve the efficiency and increase electricity output of a nuclear generating unit through upgrades to plant equipment. The projects take advantage of new production and measurement technologies, new materials and learning from a half-century of nuclear power operations.
The remainder of uprate megawatts will come from additional projects at nine Exelon plants beginning in 2010 and ending in 2017.
At 1,500 nuclear-generated megawatts, the uprates would displace 8 million metric tons of carbon emissions annually that would otherwise come from burning fossil fuels.
Exelon operates the largest fleet of commercial nuclear reactors in the United States and the third largest in the world. A series of plant upgrades and uprates over the past 10 years have already added approximately 1,100 new megawatts to Exelon Nuclear’s generation.
There is a lot of talk about the hypothetical “worst case” dangers of nuclear reactors, yet in reality, the proven record of nuclear power shows a much more environment-friendly footprint than burning coal or using fossil fuels. Aaron H., on the Skeptically Speaking website forum, points out a comparison of wind and solar capabilities to that of nuclear power:
Maple Ridge in New York is one of Americas largest windfarms. It has 195 wind turbines, covers an area of more than 12,000 acres while generating a mere 300 megawatts at peak efficiency and on a calm day, it generates nothing.
For one of the “sunbelt” (e.g. Nevada and Arizona) states in the US, a 1000 megawatt solar facility will cover more than 14 square miles. For an “average” US state, this figure jumps to over 18 square miles.
By comparison, the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station on the shores of Lake Huron, which is the largest operating nuclear facility in the world, occupies roughly 2 or 3 square miles (rough estimate) and has a maximum capacity of more than 6,200 megawatts. To match the capacity of the Bruce Station with solar power, you would need to clear 108 square miles of land and devote it all to solar panels. And this doesn’t even include space for batteries or capacitors you’d need for nighttime or cloudy day use. To replace all of Canada’s nuclear reactors with solar you would need almost 300 square miles of solar panels.