If climate change is considered a real concern by most government officials, why are policy makers and politicians not acting to keep reliably operational nuclear plants from being prematurely shutdown? As most know, nuclear generating plants produce essentially zero carbon dioxide and other climate altering gases. Once the United States had 104 operating nuclear plants producing over 60% of the nation’s clean energy. Today that number is down to 99. Nuclear plants used to generate about 20% of the electricity consumed. Today it is about 17% and declining.
The most recently announced shutdown was the Three Mile Island Unit 1 due to competition from cheap fracked natural gas and heavily subsidized wind and solar. To make matters worse, several states have issued renewable energy mandates requiring minimum levels of production from these plants regardless of cost. Some states, largely under the pressure of loss of jobs and impact on the local economy, not climate change, have enacted some temporary financial measures to keep nuclear plants in New York and Illinois open. Several more merchant nuclear plants are vulnerable in other states. In total, 1,718 Mwe of clean nuclear power has been prematurely shutdown with announcements to close another 1,436 Mwe. Most of this base load power (operating whether the wind blows or sun shines) is being replaced by natural gas, adding another 25 million tons of CO2 into the air annually. This is certainly not the optimal way to address climate change.
What is the solution? Why not give clean air credits similar to those given to solar and wind to nuclear energy plants, leveling the energy playing field and ending costly mandates that raise the price of electricity for consumers.