MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR:
The future of nuclear energy in Wisconsin
isconsin faces a future energy crisis. The state’s most recent
energy policy predicts a 6,300 megawatt shortfall by 2016, the equivalent
of roughly 12 large centralized electrical generation plants. Moreover,
Wisconsin’s current generating capacity is very old—the
newest of its 15 large coal-fired plants is more than 30 years old and
most are between 40 and 70 years old. The existing nuclear fleet is
between 25 and 30 years old and is likely to be relicensed within the
next decade. Finally, there is limited existing import capability and
ongoing debate about additional transmission lines to enhance this capability.
At the same time, Wisconsin’s options
for new energy sources are limited. Renewable energy sources such as
wind power are becoming cost-competitive and need to be pursued, but
will have limited impact on base-load electricity supply. The state
currently does not allow new nuclear plants to be built and new transmission
lines face stiff resistance. The consequences of failing to address
this future energy shortage could be staggering to the state’s
economy. Nuclear energy is safe, essential to the environment, and economically
practical, and Wisconsin urgently needs it to diversify our in-state
power production and safeguard our industrial competitiveness.
Engineering Physics faculty and staff, along
with a member of the Medical School faculty, organized a two-day forum
on Oct. 22 and 23 to inform and educate key legislative decision-makers
and business leaders, as well as environmental organizations, teachers,
students, and the public, on the difficult issues involved in the state’s
energy policy. This forum, the Future of Nuclear Energy in Wisconsin,
served to introduce a yearlong program of outreach and education activities
aimed at engaging policy-makers with this specific issue of energy.
A forum of this nature is sure to increase the role played by the university
in state energy policy development and possibly in regional and national
The state must give serious attention to utilizing
nuclear energy for generating electricity in plants built after those
currently under regulatory review and approval. Wisconsin has a proud
tradition of leading the country by recognizing the importance of limiting
the free-release of by-product emissions from its energy systems. In
keeping with this tradition, we should strive to limit CO2 emissions
as we increase our generation capacity. Former Secretary of the Interior
Bruce Babbitt, a speaker at the conference, stated that: “…climate
change is the most important environmental issue facing this planet.”
New nuclear power plants represent an economically attractive low emission
(not only on CO2, but also sulfur-oxides, nitrous-oxides, particulates,
and mercury releases) electricity generation technology and will help
Wisconsin compete in the emerging economy of this new century.
In collaboration with other UW-Madison faculty,
in particular the Energy Systems and Policy faculty, an annual event
is envisioned to address various specific issues emerging from many
general energy policy topics being addressed by UW-Madison faculty,
such as the electrical transmission grid and its reliability, the costs
of alternative energy systems, or the feasibility of a hydrogen economy.
The conference proceedings and presentations
are at: www.uwnuclearconference.com.
I would urge all of our alumni to visit the website, examine the talks
and presentations, and provide their opinions to our leaders and decision-makers
in Wisconsin, the northern Midwest and the United States. It is important
to all our futures.
Michael L. Corradini, Chair
147 Engineering Research Building
1500 Engineering Dr.
Madison, WI 53706-1687