The Nuclear Energy Impact on the Pacific Coast
- J.D. Worthington (Pacific Gas And Electric Co.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 1968
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 795 - 799
- 1968. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 7.4 Energy Economics
- 4 in the last 30 days
- 130 since 2007
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Nuclear energy as a generating source for electric power has become a commercial reality. Nuclear plants already in operation on the Pacific Slope have proven that nuclear energy is more economical than gas to generate machines. A history of the electric utility and the future plans for the use of gas and nuclear power as generating sources is presented.
Commercial nuclear electric power is changing and challenging not only the electric industry, but also the associated industries that provide fossil fuels for the conventional thermal electric plants. The impact of nuclear power upon the uses of gas for electric power generation cannot be grasped without a clear understanding of the past. What has happened, and what is happening to challenge and change the electric industry in general, and where does its bright and promising new child, nuclear power, fit?
First, it must be recognized that one of the primary jobs in any business is to plan for the future. In the case of an electric utility, not only must it plan, but it must also convert those plans into action well in advance of the day a customer turns on another light or starts another motor. Seldom can the utility wait to commit itself to a new source of generation as late as 4 years in advance. It must make the commitment 5 or 6 years before the need for the energy has developed. Consequently, electric utilities are presently concerned with what kind of generations will be added to serve its customers 5 or 6 years from now. The gas industry is equally concerned with the electric utility's selection because that selection shapes future markets for gas.
The nuclear power industry, as much as any business in existence today, reflects the accelerating change in our world. In the early days, the nuclear power industry concentrated on research and the acquiring of experience with a new power source. Commercial feasibility seemed somewhat remote. Then, almost overnight, nuclear power became a full-fledged commercial reality. The process was dramatic and rapid - so much so that probably neither the gas nor electric industry has really been able to assess the impending impact of nuclear power upon the use of gas fuel in electric plants.
Today, with new electric power sources being planned, virtually all utilities are weighing carefully the merits of nuclear power. Many companies are choosing this new source of power. Many more might be doing so if it were not for the uncertainties of the long lead times currently caused by manufacturing and regulatory backlogs. The industry is pressing to remove these uncertainties so that every utility can make its selections with known and reasonable lead times.
It is really not possible to obtain a precise measure of the future impact of nuclear power because the electric utilities are not committed beyond 5 or 6 years. However, with a few assumptions, the signs for the future become fairly clear.
Electric Load Growth
The dynamic growth of the electric load in the United States is of primary importance because most of that growth will be supported by thermal sources of energy-gas, oil, coal and nuclear.
The electric industry has long used a simple but accurate rule of thumb that says the electric load next year will be 7 percent greater than this year. This means that 10 years from now the electric load will be twice as large as it is today; 20 years from now the load will be four times as large as today.
In 1940, there was a sizable electric utility industry on the Pacific Coast. It took about 50 years to bring the electric load to its 1940 level. Today, however, the growth we plan for each year is about equal to the growth that occurred in the first 50 years. This phenomenon is not peculiar to the West Coast. A similar pattern is repeated all over the United States. The electric industry is responding with carefully laid plans that involve larger generating units, strong transmission interconnections with neighboring utilities and consideration of every conceivable source of energy.
Sources of Energy
The impact of nuclear power must be measured simultaneously with the impact of all other competitive fuels.
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