The conflict is heating up over an Arizona ballot measure to promote renewable energy and how it impact the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station — the most powerful nuclear power plant in the United States.
Power plant operator Arizona Public Service Co. said the 3,037 MW, three-unit plant would have to close if voters approve the measure to require utilities to obtain half their electricity from renewable power sources by 2030.
However, a study by energy firm ICF suggests the power plant could remain open even with a renewable energy mandate.
ICF's study considered renewable expansion, natural gas expansion and baseline scenarios and found that Palo Verde's large-scale baseload would remain competitive and economical next to lower cost gas or renewable power.
According to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, Palo Verde should stay open through 2050 even in nuclear power's worst-case scenario model, which would force the shut-down of 80 percent of the country's nuclear fleet — making Palo Verde's future more certain than most other nuclear plants in the US.
According to the EIA, the most vulnerable nuclear plants are smaller, single unit plants that operate in deregulated power markets.
Palo Verde produces electric power for several of the American Southwest's most densely populated areas, including Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles and San Diego.
The plant is unique among American power plants as its desert location puts it away from major bodies of water, and the plant uses treated municipal sewage to provide cooling liquid for its operations.