Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering
NRE 8011/8012 and MP 6011/6012 Seminar
Nuclear & Radiological Engineering and Medical Physics Programs
AN UNCERTAIN NUCLEAR FUTURE: IMPACTS OF NUCLEAR RETIREMENTS AND PROSPECTS FOR ADVANCED NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGIES
Dr. LARA PIERPOINT
OFFICE OF ENERGY POLICY AND SYSTEMS ANALYSIS
Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 11:00:00 AM
Boggs Building, Room 3-47
Currently nuclear power supplies 19 percent of U.S. electricity; however, in the last three years seven reactors at six plant sites have shut down or announced shutdowns despite having years left on their operating licenses. Low electricity prices, due to low natural gas prices among other factors, are contributing to economic conditions that challenge nuclear energy’s competitiveness and threaten to close additional reactors. Nuclear plant shutdowns have negative impacts on emissions, and, in aggregate, the atrophying of U.S. nuclear capabilities could constrain U.S. influence on global nuclear security. Rapidly shutting down a third of the country’s nuclear fleet, while an extreme scenario, would increase greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 100 million metric tonnes of CO2. In spite of economic pressures, developments on advanced reactors and small modular reactors (SMRs) could be game changers for new nuclear builds in the U.S. and internationally. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports research on advanced reactor concepts, advanced fuels, and SMRs. Whether advanced reactors or SMRs achieve significant deployment depends on demand for nuclear electricity in the U.S. and elsewhere, and while current market prospects seem limited, some of the unique attributes of nuclear power could make it attractive as new economies emerge and as OECD countries focus on low-carbon generation options.
Lara Pierpoint is the Director of Energy Supply Security for the DOE Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis. She leads coal, natural gas, nuclear power, and cyber/physical security analysis and policy development, collaborating with other DOE offices on the Quadrennial Energy Review. Prior to joining DOE, Lara was a AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Her portfolio included nuclear power and waste management, energy efficiency, energy storage, and clean energy finance. She completed a postdoc at the MIT Energy Initiative in July 2012, during which she studied the effectiveness of loan guarantees at promoting energy deployment. She received her PhD in 2011 from MIT in Engineering Systems, focusing on advanced technologies for nuclear waste recycling, and she holds dual masters degrees from MIT in nuclear engineering and technology policy. She is a native Californian, and completed her B.S. in physics at UCLA in 2004.