A Radioactive Decision:
Should DTE Energy build a new nuclear reactor in Michigan?
Given regulatory pressures to reduce GHG emissions, DTE Energy must decide if nuclear power is a viable option to cleanly meet expected energy demand.
Brittany A. Szczepanik, Bhuvan Neema, Desmond Cole, Pablo Daniel Taddei Arriola, and Jeremiah Johnson
In the midst of aggressive carbon reduction targets and regulations, Michigan will be forced to retire several coal plants. In order for Michiganders to keep their lights on, the displaced energy capacity from retired coal plants must be replaced by something—but what is the best option? DTE Energy grapples with this question, and considers their options. They have a permit to build Fermi III—a new nuclear reactor—which could provide reliable electricity with effectively zero carbon emissions, but there are many other factors to consider: federal and state policies, nuclear energy trends, construction times, financial and environmental burdens, and fierce public opposition.
Gerard Anderson, CEO of DTE Energy, asks his analysts to compile a report on all of these factors, and uses the information to consider three options for DTE Energy moving forward: (1) build Fermi III, (2) build new natural gas fired generation, or (3) build new wind and solar with natural gas generation to integrate these variable resources. Mr. Anderson considers each option carefully, knowing that his decision will impact millions of Michigan residents, and for multiple decades.