Nuclear power is on the rise across the globe. It’s easy to see why. The consistent and reliable power supply created by each plant as well as the carbon-neutral nature of the energy as demand for clean energy grows. Yet it is also true that we have seen several early retirements of well-operated nuclear energy facilities across the United States. Considering these early retirements, the public and political sectors need to evaluate the changing value of clean energy produced by nuclear power.
The conversation needs to be one about the negative consequences of closing nuclear power plants especially when the development of new facilities has slowed so substantially. As a representative of the industry, it’s important to be able to explain those negative side effects of closing plants unnecessarily so that the public and business decision makers know what they are really dealing with.
Here is a closer look at some of those consequences.
1. Fewer jobs
Clearly, the impact on small communities is extreme, but the long-term impact on clean electricity generation from an environmental perspective is also very important to keep in mind. Wisconsin’s Kewaunee facility closed a few years back, resulting in the local community losing 70 percent of its tax revenue, and the state losing almost 8 million megawatt-hours of clean electricity. If the Perry, Davis-Besse, Three Mile Island, and Beaver Valley plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania close, it’s projected that 3,000 jobs will be lost. Beyond that, the closures could cost thousands of more jobs when you take into consideration that such plants act as economic anchors for their communities. For every 100 nuclear plant jobs, an extra 66 jobs are created in the local community.
2. Rising cost of electricity
Closing nuclear plants results in an increase in wholesale electricity prices, which in turn would increase costs to ratepayers. It all comes down to energy diversity, and in those areas where nuclear plants are the core non-carbon-based source of energy, closure of those nuclear plants would have an inevitable impact on consumers, upwards of about 27 percent.
3. Increased carbon pollution
On a national scale, nuclear energy can provide more than 60 percent of the country’s carbon-free electricity, with hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar energy making up the remaining 40 percent combined. Nuclear energy is important because it provides reliable and large-scale energy production around the clock, regardless of climate or weather conditions. All credible and sustainable environmental programs designed to reduce our country’s production of carbon dioxide include the preservation of existing and development of new nuclear power generation facilities.
While growing support for renewable energy is changing the energy landscape of the United States, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is not an important place in the market for nuclear. While we are at this critical point in our country’s energy strategy, it’s important to keep in mind the cost of renewables, and the cost of forgoing reliance on nuclear energy as facilities are taken offline unnecessarily. Communicating that cost-effectively is the first step we can take toward making a change.
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