Colorado needs advanced nuclear power

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By William DeOreo

I’m running for the Colorado House of Representatives in House District 10. One of the issues that interests me is Colorado’s energy security. After spending many hours reading Xcel Energy’s 2030 electrical resource plan, I’m concerned that Colorado is headed for an energy crisis sometime after 2030. The main problem is that the plan relies too much on power sources. intermittent and unreliable energy based on weather conditions and totally ignores the best low-carbon energy source: nuclear energy. The Democratic-controlled legislature appears oblivious to the danger.

Most of the existing coal-fired generation will be retired or converted to natural gas by 2028. This will make the system completely dependent on gas for most of its dispatchable energy, i.e. that energy which can be activated at will. Wind and solar are only available when the conditions are right.

Natural gas prices are volatile. Over the past 12 months, natural gas prices have ranged from $3.54 per million cubic feet to $9.66, and in times of stress they can rise quickly. Between March and June 2022, gas prices more than doubled from $4.00 to $9.66. If wind and solar energy sources are not available, for example during a winter storm, we could find ourselves in a worse situation than Texas last winter.

Wind and solar are inefficient when it comes to the actual amount of power they deliver relative to faceplate ratings. According to Xcel studies, the average capacity factor of wind farms is only 13%, which means that our 4124 MW of existing wind resources only counts for 553 MW of firm capacity. Overall, the capacity factors for all wind, solar, storage and hydroelectric resources are around 25%. Keep in mind that these estimates are based on statistics and there is no guarantee that actual performance will not be lower. Sometimes it might suck.

Xcel relies on what they call “generic” projects to supply the required 4000 MW of new renewable energy. A generic project is a project that Xcel expects will be provided by private companies. Remember that all renewable energy projects are highly dependent on tax subsidies. As Warren Buffet said, the only reason he invests in wind power is for tax credits.

Xcel plans to spend more than $1 billion on a 600-mile transmission system around the eastern part of the state. The private sector is expected to step in and build the required energy projects. The question is, what if tax credits are taken away or our bankrupt federal government cannot provide them? Are we sawing off the branch we’re sitting on?

Aside from the massive amounts of land this system will take up and the environmental damage it will cause to farmland and wildlife (especially birds), there are too many moving parts that can go wrong when we need them. .

I find it amazing that nowhere in the hundreds of pages does the word “nuclear” appear. It’s as if Xcel has forgotten that such technology as nuclear energy even exists. There are strong existing designs on the market that could be used now to provide safe and cost-effective carbon-free electricity. The Westinghouse AP1000 reactor is fully licensed and uses proven technology. Each reactor provides 1100 MW of fully dispatchable power. Westinghouse actually built them. In addition, there are many promising new technologies such as molten salt reactors which can use “spent” fuel or thorium to produce their own fuel. These will probably be online within 10 years. Wyoming is building a new reactor near Rock Springs using one of the new designs. Colorado should be a leader in this effort.

I advocate that Colorado’s Clean Air Act be amended to include nuclear energy as a renewable energy, and allow funds from the Innovative Energy Fund to be used to promote nuclear energy R&D and implementation. The state legislature should take a long view and not naively go down the path that Germany currently finds so painful by relying too heavily on weather energy.

William DeOreo is running for the 10th district of the Colorado House of Representatives.


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