Powering Strong Communities

Paper Provides Guide for Converting Coal Sites to Nuclear

A new white paper from the Electric Power Research Institute aims to provide owner-operators and other stakeholders with a practical guide for the deployment of a nuclear energy facility on or near an existing coal plant.

As governments, utilities, and industries transition away from coal-based generation to help meet carbon dioxide reduction and other emissions-related goals, continued operation of coal assets may result in reduced economic and regulatory certainty.

As a result many organizations are reviewing nuclear energy as an option because of  its ability to provide CO2 free, dispatchable, and firm power, EPRI said in the paper.

Existing coal plants can provide benefits and opportunities that make siting a new nuclear facility at or near an existing coal-fired plant site a compelling option, EPRI said, noting, however, that utilities must consider the issues that come with reusing a previously industrialized site.

EPRI said its paper provides a generalized, regulatory agnostic process for repurposing a coal plant with nuclear energy, and it reviews the options and concerns that must be evaluated and resolved, including multi-disciplinary engineering and technical considerations, as well as workforce and community engagement issues.

EPRI said the key findings of the paper are that:

  • Water, land, and transmission availability are the greatest resources available from an existing coal plant for the development and deployment of a nuclear plant;
  • Reuse of infrastructure, such as the balance of plant or the turbine cycle of the coal plant, should include a thorough review of all technical aspects of the system, structures, and components to understand their ability to meet all technical and licensing requirements for nuclear deployment;
  • Project planning should consider the requirements for maintaining transmission rights to ensure that coal plant shutdown and nuclear plant startup are coordinated and timed as such;
  • Legacy environmental aspects of the coal facility, such as coal combustion product monitoring, must be evaluated considering nuclear environmental monitoring programs;
  • The continuation or reuse of permits such as water, air, and land should be assessed early to determine the viability of the option, and
  • Community engagement and workforce development should occur as early as possible.
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