Full Title: When Nuclear Ends: How Nuclear Retirements Might Undermine Clean Power Plan Progress
Author(s): By Samuel Brinton and Josh Freed
Publisher(s): Third Way
Publication Date: 08/2015

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Description (excerpt):

Nuclear power provides electricity for one in five homes in the U.S. But this zero-emissions power source faces extreme economic challenges led by badly designed energy markets that are leading to the premature closure of reactors. Five have already closed, and at least another nine are in danger of being retired soon.

This begs a critical question: What will happen to carbon emissions if more reactors shut down? In coordination with MIT-trained researchers*, Third Way modeled that question, and, regardless of the scenario we ran, the answers were dire:

  • In the worst case, emissions would revert to their peak levels in 2005, basically eliminating a decade of progress in carbon reduction.
  • Natural gas would predominately replace the nuclear plants when they go offline.
  • Renewables growth has been strong but wouldn’t keep up to replace the lost nuclear power given the current policies.