College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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EPISODE: The Engineering Physics Department Newsletter


Fall / Winter 2003-2004
Featured articles

Following particle paths
in magnetic fusion experiments

Chain reaction: DOE grant aids infrastructure, educational upgrades
for reactor

Coating could take
burnables out of
nuclear fuel

Opposites attract:
Stable and unstable materials couple for
high performance

EP Department

Regular Features

Message from the chair

Faculty/staff news

New faculty: Todd Allen

Faculty retirement:
James D. Callen

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The future of nuclear energy in Wisconsin

Portrait of Rob Carpick

Michael L. Corradini, Chair
(16K JPG)

Decorative initial cap W 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 energy policy.

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:

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

Tel: 608/263-1646
Fax: 608/263-7451


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Date last modified: Monday, 15-November-2003 15:43:00 CDT
Date created: 15-November-2003