NHPR reporter Sam Evans-Brown pointed out an interesting electric-power experiment going on in New England: By coincidence, our nuclear power plants have all been offline for a few days. (Some were undergoing refueling, which happens every spring when demand dips, and one went offline for the reason that nuke plants usually go offline: a circuit fault.)
What has happened as a result? Natural gas use has soared. It was 68% of the fuel mix on Friday, which is high even for gas-dependent New England. And if electricity demand wasn’t so low right now because of the COVID shutdown, we’d be seeing lots more of it because nothing else could pick up the slack quickly.
So there’s the lesson: When we shut down nukes we increase use of fossil fuels to make electricity. That will be the case for at least for the next three to five years, and probably longer, as we try to ramp up renewables and storage.
This is why I’m a fan of keeping all our existing nuclear plants running as long as possible. Sorry, Clamshell Alliance veterans, but climate change has altered how we measure the lesser of these two evils.