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Tue May 11, 2021, 03:20 AM

TVA, Eyeing Coal Phaseout by 2035, Will Rely on Nuclear

TVA, Eyeing Coal Phaseout by 2035, Will Rely on Nuclear

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) expects to phase out its coal generation by 2035, but achieving net-zero carbon emissions without raising power prices or adversely affecting reliability will require substantial investments in energy storage and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). TVA also will need to extend the lifetime of its nuclear power, and adopt the use of small modular reactors (SMRs), said Jeffrey Lyash, its president and CEO.

During a fireside chat with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) on April 28 hosted by the nonprofit international think tank the Atlantic Council—an event focused on the future of low carbon generation in the Appalachian region—Lyash noted the self-funded U.S. corporate agency has already retired 60% of its coal generation. “Our coal units will continue to retire over the next 15 years because they’ve reached the end of life,” he said.

However, TVA’s 2035 coal phaseout is still an “aspirational target” that will depend on environmental impact studies, and ultimately, a board-approved recommendation by the company, spokesperson Jim Hopson told POWER. While TVA does not intend to invest in its coal plants to extend their lifetimes and it “knows the path that it generally wants to take,” environmental impact statements “sometimes can take years to fully prepare and to complete all the necessary studies, so it is unlikely that the board will receive a recommendation for all the plants simultaneously.” he explained. “It’s possible, but more than likely, coal will be phased [out] over a period of a few years.”

The declaration is still a noteworthy development for TVA, which federal legislation created in 1933. As the nation’s largest public power supplier today, the entity has a footprint that serves 10 million people, including in most of Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, and southwestern Kentucky and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina, and southwestern Virginia...

...Coal Carried TVA for Decades

Last week, Lyash highlighted the TVA’s original mission to spur economic development in the Tennessee Valley and Appalachia, but he noted the entity is also committed to environmental stewardship. Both aspects have driven a significant change in its power generating portfolio (Figure 1), he said.



1. TVA’s changing power portfolio. Source: TVA
While TVA began its coal-fired construction program in the 1940s, the majority of its coal units were placed in service between 1951 and 1973. Just 10 years ago, TVA produced 74,583 GWh—or about 52% of its total generation—from 53 active units at 11 coal plants. Increasingly stringent regulatory requirements over the past decade, along with environmental agreements with several states and environmental groups, forced the company to retire 18 coal units by 2017...


The fantasy that "coal is dead" is very prominent in the United States because of the popularity of replacing it with "transitional" natural gas. In reality, on the planet as a whole, irrespective of the fantasies of the US bourgeoisie in the provinces, coal has been the fastest growing source of energy on the planet as a whole in the 21st century.

The US "coal is dead" fantasy is driven by the willingness to destroy the ground water and much of the surface water of the entire continent by fracking, leaving permanent holes that will be oozing "God knows what" pollutants into the environment of all future generations.

No matter what one hears, natural gas is not clean; it is not sustainable, nor is it transitional. The use, in terms of energy, not the hollow lie of peak capacity, which may be available for a few minutes a day, of dangerous natural gas is rising far faster than is so called "renewable energy," the latter of which would collapse in a New York minute without access to dangerous natural gas.

Unlike all other coal phase outs in the US, by replacing coal with reliable 24/7 nuclear energy - which has the highest capacity utilization of any form of energy on the planet - the TVA is being sensible, not that humanity is being sensible.

Many people think so called "renewable energy" is driving coal phase outs. One hears this garbage thinking all the time. This belief is a form of ignorance, inattention, delusion, etc. Those steel posts in all those wind turbines we're constructing in our effort to convert all remaining wilderness into industrial parks are made using coke, which is coal heated to high temperatures using heat provided by the combustion of coal. Pretty much every wind turbine now operating will be landfill in about 20 to 25 years.

Modern nuclear plants are designed to operate for 60 to 80 years.

I trust you're safe and well.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue May 11, 2021, 06:58 AM

1. Hmmm, didn't look for this in Science -- duplicate posted in E/E.

I hope a lot of what Manchin is saying is to placate his constituents back in WV, but that in reality, he knows better. That may take a lot of wishing.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #1)

Tue May 11, 2021, 08:08 AM

2. Ah, I see it.

I missed it.

I only check in over there rarely, usually to be amazed to learn, again, for the zillionth time over half a century, how wind and solar will produce zillions of percents of all the energy we'll ever need to build huge colonies of space cities on Mars.

I see the science forum as the best place to discuss practical science and engineering issues connected with environmental reality.

I'm not particularly welcome in E&E, in any case.

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Response to NNadir (Reply #2)

Tue May 11, 2021, 10:45 PM

6. Did you notice your recent shout out in your most recent check in at E/E?

You were referenced in a reply to a post about the potential utility of hydrogen.

Several of us posters at E/E will always welcome you back if you decide to venture over there again.

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Response to StevieM (Reply #6)

Wed May 12, 2021, 06:18 PM

7. No. I don't check in all that much over there, and if I do, I make very brief remarks, if any.

Last edited Thu May 13, 2021, 09:16 AM - Edit history (2)

Anything I say that's worth saying or worth reading - and some fraction of what I write surely isn't worth reading, irrespective of whether I wrote it - is best said or read here.

This is a serious forum, and is in fact, run by a scientist, a gentleman and a scholar.

I like the science forum very much, and spend at least half the time I spend on DU here. I am always pleased to hear about things about which I was unaware, even if some of it comes from pop sources.

There's not all that much chanting of tired and failed 30 or 40 year old mantras here.

As for hydrogen:

In general - although this isn't necessarily 100% true 100% of the time - no real scientist would confuse hydrogen gas on Earth with a primary source of energy, although one can, and does, see such confusion on blogs. Plasma maybe, very much in "maybe" territory, but not gas. Any serious scientist speaking on the subject of energy would be aware of the laws of thermodynamics, which precludes such a misunderstanding. It's better for my blood pressure to not have to explain this all the time.

But thanks for your kind words. Even if you and perhaps some others might welcome me there, you don't run the place. My ignore list, almost entirely generated over there, is too long already. My feeling is that my life is running out, so why should I waste my personal energy, with so little left?

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Reply #1)

Tue May 11, 2021, 08:21 AM

3. As for Manchin, I see him as the best we'll do...

...in West Virginia.

It's funny, but West Virginia was created out of the rib of Virginia to escape the Confederacy.

It does seem like they're rethinking that position.

Manchin is no Doug Jones, but is a survivor because he adheres to the art of the possible. I'm glad he's there for all his problematic positions.

They can comfort themselves by noting all the coal that goes into making steel for wind turbine posts.

It is worth noting that Calder Hall in the UK was built to put the fear of God into British coal miners in the 1950s.

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Response to NNadir (Original post)

Tue May 11, 2021, 08:38 AM

4. If the TVA does start building nuclear plants again

I wonder if there’s a way to build them right from the start. I’m not criticizing the idea of nuclear power plants per se, but it always seemed that the companies constructing those plants would be well underway towards building those plants, then partway through construction, regulators would mandate revisions, causing months (if not years) of delay and tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns, which sent the costs of completing those plants towards the ionosphere. Not that I have blind faith in the companies who build such plants, I’ve long suspected that that sort of regulatory behavior was as much if not more responsible for the cessation of nuclear power plant construction here in the US.

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Response to Vogon_Glory (Reply #4)

Tue May 11, 2021, 09:00 AM

5. Regulatory ratcheting during construction...

...has historically been a huge problem for the nuclear industry, but ultimately the ratcheting has been driven by public stupidity and ignorance.

If the dangerous fossil fuel industry were required to meet the same safety standards that nuclear is often required to meet, specifically that no one, not even a poorly educated rock star can even imagine a loss of life, the lights would go out in short order.

After long delays, the Brown's Ferry reactors were allowed to finish and begin saving lives from air pollution.

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