While dozens of nuclear power plants are in the planning and building stages around the world, supporting future demand expectations for uranium, nuclear power use in the U.S. has been declining due to aging plants and lack of plans for new builds.
The challenge in America is the availability of low-cost natural gas, but now the US Department of Energy has issued a report suggesting that the premature retirement of nuclear plants could put the resiliency of America’s electricity grid at risk.
Last April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry issued a memorandum requesting DOE staff conduct a study to examine electricity markets and reliability, and this week the DOE released the results of the study, noting that several critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electricity grid were identified.
The DOE stated: “Hydropower, nuclear, coal and natural gas power plants provide essential reliability services and fuel assurance critical to system resilience. A continual comprehensive regional and national review is needed to determine how a portfolio of domestic energy resources can be developed to ensure grid reliability and resilience.”
The report recommends to accelerate and reduce costs for the licensing, relicensing and permitting of grid infrastructure, including nuclear power plants, and the DOE added that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be “encouraged to ensure the safety of existing and new nuclear facilities without unnecessarily adding to the operating costs and economic uncertainty of nuclear energy”. It suggests nuclear safety rules are revisited under a risk-based approach.
It is not clear what will come of this report, right now, but power companies cheered the findings If this report opens the way for increased nuclear power capacity in the U.S., then we can expect an even more positive outlook for uranium prices.