“The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station, located near Omaha, Nebraska, shut down on Monday, October 24, after the Omaha Public Power District voted in June to retire the plant, citing economic reasons as the main cause. With a capacity of 478 megawatts (MW), Fort Calhoun was the smallest active nuclear power plant in the United States at the time of its retirement. Following the retirement of Fort Calhoun, the United States has 99 commercially operating reactors at 62 nuclear power plants.”
“U.S. consumption of nuclear power totaled 769 million megawatthours in 2012, a 3-percent decrease from 2011. The top generation states were Illinois, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.
U.S. expenditures on nuclear fuel totaled $5.7 billion in 2012, a 5-percent increase from 2011.”
Overall, residential energy usage is down, but we’re paying more. And rates will continue to increase. Why? To finally upgrade the grid to be compatible with technology – the Smart Grid, Net-Metering, smart home electronics, and the power from various distributed energy producers. In other words, as consumers, residential and commercial, start to find ways to decrease their energy usage the utilities were slow to make the jump to more efficient methods, like HVDC transmission lines.
What are HVDC transmission lines? Let’s say Utility PowCo produces electricity by burning coal to heat water to turn turbines that generate the electricity that we use. Guess what, they do that in the rural areas of your state, and then they have to bring it to your electrical outlet. They have to first push that power through various transformers lowering the current , then upping the current and then lowering it again to you, over hundreds of miles of inefficient transmission lines. HVDC takes the power from the generators at high voltages and the power remains at the level until it reaches the substation in the city, so there is less loss.
Resistance to change is expensive, and damaging to customer relations. Distributed Energy producers, like Photovoltaic/Solar Power owners, create power onsite, at the point of need, and distribute excess energy to the grid for use by everyone. Homes and business that utilize Photovoltaics not only help the environment, they help the grid by lowering load and ensuring supply by producing power. Photovoltaics / Solar Power will cause energy cost to be cheaper for everyone.
Thorium, though, is hard to turn into a bomb; not impossible, but sufficiently uninviting a prospect that America axed thorium research in the 1970s. It is also three or four times as abundant as uranium. In a world where nuclear energy was a primary goal of research, rather than a military spin-off, it would certainly look worthy of investigation. And it is, indeed, being investigated.