In looking ahead to entirely decarbonizing the electric generation system, there is a debate about the use of nuclear generation. One school of thought argues that nuclear will be essential to successful decarbonization, while the other feels that this can be done entirely using renewable technologies, essentially wind and solar. This research investigates the role and value of using nuclear generation in decarbonizing the electric generation system. Along with generation, however, storage technologies will be needed. This study also compares the value of using batteries (expensive but efficient) to the use of ammonia (quite inefficient, but very cheap per unit of energy). Based on the Capacity Expansion Model, the study develops an analytical function to evaluate the marginal cost of carbon reduction under various scenarios of primary generation (with and without nuclear) and storage technologies (with batteries or with ammonia). The behaviors of the generators and storage determine the different components of this equation. Illustrating these behaviors gives us insight as to the role of nuclear and different types of storage in decarbonizing the system.
Alan graduated from Stanford University in 1970 with a Master’s degree in geotechnical engineering. As a civil engineer he worked in heavy construction in Alaska and Vietnam, Peace Corps in Venezuela in dam design, and in the Bay Area in earthquake analysis. He returned to Stanford and completed a PhD in Engineering Economic systems in 1983. He joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1987, working energy system economics, developing and applying modeling platforms to evaluate policies and technologies for energy generation and storage. He was also active in risk analyses for nuclear materials production and waste disposal. He is currently retired, but continues to work in energy systems economics to better understand strategies for reducing carbon emissions from the energy system.