Coal has been a mainstay of US power generation. Those days are quickly ending.

Something must take its place. How about nuclear energy? Maybe we can learn from two other nations.

Poland and Hungary think nuclear is an answer to coal and are moving that way. That can trim years off the goal of being coal-free. For Hungary, 2025 is the new goal to close coal plants.

Hungary gets about half its power from four nuclear reactors. Coal – 15%.

Polish carbon-free energy will be added as the country opens six nuclear units in two-year increments between 2033 and 2043. Poland aims to be 90% carbon neutral by 2030.

There is some pushback from environmental groups because Poland also plans to build gas plants. Gas generation has much less carbon than coal, bit still has emissions.

Renewables have been hailed as a way to replace coal, but with one big issue. Coal consistently cranks out power 24/7. That is not the case with renewables, though matching renewables with battery storage is seen as one way to address dispatchability of power from renewables. Large-scale batteries still need research. Not ready for prime time yet.

Nuclear is 24/7. Nuclear today is not what is has been in the past, or will be. Small modular reactors are making their way through approvals with regulators.

Even than Bill Gates has extolled the benefits of nuclear power, telling CNBC recently: ‘There’s a new generation [of nuclear power] that solves the economics, which has been the big, big problem. At the same time, it revolutionizes the safety.”

Gates noted health issues from coal generation, which he also references in his book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.”

Nuclear energy is a power source that in in the midst of a changing image. New nuclear technology helps. My opinion is that states with a future mindset will look hard at small nuclear technologies and get them into their energy systems. This is an opportunity to have a diverse blend of energy, which is important to reliability.

The message for regions served by nuclear energy now is to keep those plants healthy and operational. For regions aiming at being carbon-free – look to the newest nuclear technologies to complement renewables.

  ***

Referenced in this article: