As many as 157 retired coal plants and 237 operating coal plant sites across the U.S. could be converted to nuclear power and help the country reach its net-zero emissions goals by 2050, the U.S. Department of Energy said in a report on Tuesday.
The report showed that among the retired or active plant locations, 80% was suited to host advanced reactors smaller than the gigawatt scale.
U.S. carbon emissions from the power sector have plummeted in recent years as utilities retire old coal-fired power plants in favor of natural gas, solar and wind power, a shift driven by decreasing prices for these sources and state and federal incentives for renewable energy.
If a large coal plant was to be replaced by a nuclear power plant of a similar size, more than 650 permanent jobs could be created and greenhouse gas emissions in the region could be slashed by 86%, the study found.
U.S. power companies plan to retire or convert from coal to gas over 14,500 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired plants in 2022, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Thomson Reuters data, yet challenges exist due to supply concerns on renewable energy infrastructure.