Report: Nuclear plant closures will hurt the environment

By Jason Hopkins

A new study confirms what a growing number of environmentalists have come to accept: nuclear energy is tantamount to reducing the amount of carbon emissions entering the atmosphere.

The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental nonprofit group, released a report on Wednesday that finds the U.S. renewable industry won’t be able to keep pace with the amount of carbon emissions to be added into the atmosphere after a series of nuclear plants close down across the country. Federal policy changes regarding nuclear power will likely not happen in the immediate future, which makes action by state governments and corporations all the more crucial, the environmental group noted. The report also offered several policy proposals to address the issue.

Nuclear energy plays a big role in the U.S. energy sector. Currently, 99 nuclear plants are in operation and provide 20 percent of the country’s electricity, with over half of it being carbon-free power.

However, the nuclear industry has faced strong headwinds in recent years. Natural gas — with the help of hydraulic fracturing — has skyrocketed in production, emerging as a cheap and efficient source of power. Natural gas’ rise has been to the detriment of nuclear-generated power. Nuclear plants across the country have either already closed or plan to cease operations in a few years’ time. FirstEnergy, for example, announced plans to close down several of its nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, citing lack of revenue. The Ohio-based energy company has lobbied the federal government for a bailout to save their plants. Major economic and environmental damage would occur should their plants close, a study found.

Natural gas will mostly replace the void of dead nuclear reactors, pushing carbon emissions in the wrong direction, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ report determined.

“The nut we really want to crack is how renewables and nuclear can work together for each other’s mutual benefit. We need to have 80 percent reductions by 2050. We’re not going to get there if renewables and nuclear are fighting each other,” said Doug Vine, a senior energy fellow for the organization, in a Wednesday statement to Axios. Vine believes nuclear is an integral part of the renewable energy sector.

The report highlights the divide between environmentalists on nuclear. Accidents such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, and questions about what to do with nuclear waste after a plant is decommissioned, has long turned environmentalists against nuclear. However, a growing number of them are embracing it as an excellent source of renewable energy that produces low levels of emissions.

In a TEDx speech, “Why I Changed My Mind About Nuclear,” Michael Shellenberger explained how after realizing the limitations of wind and solar, he saw the light on nuclear energy’s capabilities. Shellenberger, president and founder of Environmental Progress, is running for governor in California on a pro-nuclear, clean-energy platform and has not hesitated to attack fellow progressives on the issue.

Shellenberger has clashed heavily with billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, who has worked across the country to stymie nuclear and other power sources he deems unworthy.

“It’s hard to say which is more outrageous: that billionaire renewable energy investor Tom Steyer is trying to replace Arizona’s largest source of clean energy with a mix of natural gas and solar, or that he’s doing it in the name of climate change. Whatever the case, anyone who is concerned about air pollution, global warming, or simply maintaining cheap and reliable electricity for Arizona should denounce Steyer’s initiative and demand he withdraw it from the ballot,” he said in an April 18 statement. The comments were in reference to Steyer’s work to close the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona.

State legislators have begun to adopt measures to save the nuclear industry. In New Jersey, state lawmakers passed a massive subsidies bill on April 13 to keep three of the state’s plants in operation. New York’s electric-grid operator has considered a proposal that would put a price on Carbon emissions within its system — a measure that would give a leg up to nuclear plants in the state.

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Image courtesy of Nuclear Regulatory Commission/Entergy

6 thoughts on “Report: Nuclear plant closures will hurt the environment

  1. Remembering and noting a few things:
    1) Given the recent volcanic eruptions in Hawaii (& past years world wide) and the toxic gasses, nature’s furry, no word of concern from the anti CO2 bunch and climate change.
    2) Brattleboro & Vernon (center of So VT Liberals) demand closure of VT Yankee. It operated safely, but when Japan had Nuke Power Plant probs with the Tsunami Libs got the plant to close. The plant may have reached it’s design limit, but it operated safely and kept elec rates relatively low.
    3) Natural gas is abundant, but the Libs don’t want a pipeline in their back yard that would heat and provide elec to VT. I’ve been to WY, pipe lines cross-cross the landscape in all directions-no problems.
    4) Greenland’s ice cores (at UNH & elsewhere) shows Earth’s climate cycles. We are now in a cooling cycle as within studied. Libs don’t have a clue.
    5) Across northern VT West Burke (crossing Rt 5A), a pipeline has been there many years, no problem
    6) First the Lib environmentalists wanted windmills and solar panels. Now they complain about bird killings and “billboards” on VT fields. So windmills and the solar panels must go.
    7) Libs have destroyed manufacturing in VT, it’s not VT. Kids upon grad have to go out of state to survive.
    8) The VT media doesn’t really report VT’s problems, a cover up, but other sources are available, alarming.
    9) The Dem Legislature is hell bent on destroying VT, pass legislation (and Governor) without any regard to the consequences—gun control for instance. They want to control the people. They are more of a disaster than any Nuke Plant.
    10) About the only thing regarding energy for VT is squirrel power. Cage them and feed them peanuts. But would have to import peanuts from Jimmy Cater’s peanut farm in GA (a negative). But then the “naturists” will complain about animal rights and cruelty (a negative), another VT Lib concern. There goes elec. Water power is out, harms the fish and disrupts the scenic natural flow. If elec was blocked into VT from outside sources (HydroQubec), the statehouse would have to close and the legislators would have to go home. A benefit from it all.


  2. This piece has to be from “The Onion”. No self respecting Enviro-Nazi is going to embrace a nuke plant. They rather have a solid radium suppository discreetly placed.

    Given some thought, that isn’t such a bad idea; perhaps it can be arranged.

  3. But I thought windmills and solar were the way to go. Except on cloudy days, stormy days etc. And solar is so cheap If you have a few acres of land, for $100G, you can power your own home and even the garage. Except at night.
    It will last for about 20years, and then you can do it again. There you go, free power except on days listed above and night. Fortunately, none of those conditions happen in VT.
    What could possibly go wrong?

  4. Carbon emissions could also be reduced by deporting all the 20 million illegals in this country who are driving cars, using heating oil, eating food (agriculture pollutes). Twenty million people do a lot of polluting.

  5. Japan:

    Often considered a leaders in CO2 emissions.

    “Most of the world is turning its back on burning coal to produce electricity, but not Japan. The nation has fired up at least eight new coal power plants in the past 2 years and has plans for an additional 36 over the next decade—the biggest planned coal power expansion in any developed nation (not including China and India). And last month, the government took a key step toward locking in a national energy plan that would have coal provide 26% of Japan’s electricity in 2030 and abandons a previous goal of slashing coal’s share to 10%.”

    Vermont’s Carbon tax is going to do WONDERS for global warming :/

  6. Jason,
    About 78 – 80 percent of all primary energy has been from fossil fuel for the past 43 years, even after spending several $trillion on wind, solar, etc.

    There is absolutely no way CO2 can be reduced to near zero by 2080, per IPCC, without that primary energy coming from nuclear.

    Some folks say, the world does not have enough uranium. But each year more uranium is being added to the oceans than we could possibly use.

    And then there are thorium reactions being developed that use at least 90% thorium and 10% uranium, and the world has far more thorium on land than there is uranium.

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