At Duke Energy, in the U.S. and around the world, we’re working towards a clean energy future.
But how do we get there?
Renewable resources like solar, wind and hydro tend to be part of the plan, quickly identified as carbon-free energy sources. Yet a thorough clean energy strategy must include a variety of energy resources – like nuclear for example – that can be used to support renewable resources. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow – but our customers always count on us to provide affordable, reliable power.
While keeping our existing nuclear fleet operational through second license renewal is crucial, building new traditional nuclear reactors can be cost prohibitive. That’s why new technologies are being explored, and advanced nuclear technologies are at the top of the list.
Duke Energy is committed to exploring the possibility of building small modular reactors and advanced reactors as part of our clean energy transformation, and this possibility is not restricted to the Carolinas.
Research, like what we shared in a 2020 interview with Duke Energy’s Chris Nolan, vice president of New Nuclear Generation strategy and regulatory engagement, on our participation in the Natrium project, is key.
And we recently shared findings from a joint study between Purdue University and Duke Energy to explore the feasibility of using emerging nuclear technology in Indiana.
After a year of studying advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors and advanced reactors, the company and Purdue University have found that this emerging nuclear technology is a potential carbon-free option that should be further explored to power the university’s West Lafayette campus – and supply excess energy to Indiana’s electric grid in the 2030s and beyond.
"Our early findings show that advanced nuclear technology presents a potential path to zero emissions for our university, and we intend to continue our teamwork with Duke Energy in the next phase of the study,” said Purdue University President Mung Chiang. “The persistent collaboration among Duke Energy, Purdue University and world-renowned energy and policy experts demonstrates the critical importance of this exploration into advanced nuclear energy and what it could mean not only for our campus, but also the community, state and nation.”
Electricity from nuclear power plants is a carbon-free source of energy that operates continuously 24 hours a day. Small modular reactors will typically produce up to 300 megawatts of clean energy, with some designs having higher generating capacities. They also have enhanced safety features and are simpler than traditional nuclear plants, making them easier and more affordable to build.
Federal and state law supports new nuclear development, but the federal licensing process is complex and lengthy. Advancements in design, construction planning and financing are needed.
"To reach a clean, carbon-free future, we need to explore a broad range of technologies, including advanced nuclear,” said Duke Energy Indiana President Stan Pinegar. “We need to study this and other options further, and this report starts a conversation about how we might transition to carbon-free power that can operate on demand in concert with renewable energy, such as solar and wind.”
The study also explored challenges – such as public acceptance, regulatory conditions, cost competitiveness, technology development, used fuel management and skilled workforce availability.
The process to site, permit, receive regulatory approval, build and bring online a new nuclear plant currently takes about 10 years to complete, depending on the licensing pathway chosen. If the company and Purdue University at any point in the future decide to pursue small modular reactors near campus or elsewhere in Indiana, public and stakeholder input will be an important part of the process first.
“The more we learn about small modular reactors, the more potential we see for this technology to help our university achieve a sustainable energy future and eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Michael B. Cline, senior vice president, Purdue University Administrative Operations.
The Purdue University and Duke Energy feasibility study interim report released May 10, 2023, culminates hundreds of hours of research and evaluation from nearly three dozen leaders and industry experts, including world-renowned experts who serve on the team’s executive and technical advisory committees. The joint study kicked off in April 2022 and concluded in May 2023.
This study is just one critical step in lending our expertise to shape the landscape and continue the conversation on advanced nuclear technologies as we work together towards a clean energy future.