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Is a Nuclear Reactor Headed to the Heart of Your City?

By District Energy posted 03-03-2023 06:47




It’s not uncommon for nuclear power plants to be sited relatively close to large metropolitan areas (within 50 miles, for example), after all, that is where the biggest loads are, but reactors are rarely placed near the center of large cities. This is mainly due to the risks associated with a meltdown, or even a minor release of radioactive contamination, which could force evacuations of people within a certain distance of the facilities. It’s something planners had to consider when reactors were originally sited.

However, a new initiative known as Nuclear in District Energy Applications (NuIDEA), developed by EPRI and a group of more than 20 other organizations, could result in nuclear reactors coming closer to downtown. While this may raise concern among some people wary of nuclear power, the plan’s creators see a great opportunity to decarbonize urban energy systems by utilizing this carbon-free energy resource.

“There is great interest in highly reliable and resilient decarbonized energy sources. EPRI sees nuclear energy as one of many options to help meet that need,” Jeremy Shook, principal project manager, Nuclear Innovation, at EPRI, told POWER. “In our discussions with district energy system operators, they are keenly interested in understanding the unique challenges with this technology and how to overcome them. EPRI is helping to support this with the NuIDEA Initiative.”

In the “NuIDEA Action Plan,” which was recently released by EPRI, the authors explain that district energy systems connect multiple heating and cooling energy users to central energy sources. “These plants utilize equipment such as boilers and chillers to produce steam, hot water, and chilled water. In addition to thermal energy, district energy facilities can cogenerate electricity utilizing equipment such as combustion turbines paired with heat recovery steam generators,” it says.

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