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AstroPhool said: "... renewables and nuclear can handle the needs of power generation"

I said in reply: "Yes renewables and nuclear can handle the needs of power generation, but only if nuclear plants could load follow as quickly as gas turbines. But alas there is no nuclear power plant in the world that can match the fast load following capability of gas turbines."

The argument started because Pete objected to my statement above and claimed that current Navy nuclear reactors can do rapid power ramping.

My comment was intended to mean that -- over time, as fossil-fuel power plants reached the end of their lifetimes -- they could quite feasibly be replaced by a mix of renewable and nuclear power generation (as opposed to the situation for transport, for which the non-fossil-fuel options still aren't very good). Mostly nuclear is needed to provide a reliable source of base load capacity. There will always be times when both solar and wind perform poorly, and for those times, a source of base load generating capacity is a necessity. In some favored locales, hydroelectric or geothermal power may suffice for this purpose, and perhaps, in a very few places, tidal power. Otherwise, the only reliable non-fossil-fuel alternative is nuclear.

The need for rapid load following does become an issue when renewables makes up most (>70%) of the power generation mix. It is true that most currently operating reactors can not quickly load follow in the way that gas-fired plants can, but this is by design, and not because of some innate property of nuclear reactors. Reactors can be designed that can load follow rapidly, if required. Of course, there are always energy storage methods (such as thermal or pumped water storage) that renewable generation plants will have to make use of anyway, and this storage could also be used to even out load demand on nuclear generation.

There is a lot of useful information about nuclear generation and load following on the ANS site:

The ANS (American Nuclear Society) exists to promote the use of nuclear energy, so this is hardly an unbiased site. But the technical information in the article and comments is well worth the read.

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