City & State: “Nuclear Energy’s Opponents Undervalue Environmental and Economic Benefits”

Nuclear Energy’s Opponents Undervalue Environmental and Economic Benefits

By: Ron Kirk
October 26, 2015

Those leading the charge to close New York’s nuclear energy facilities do so on the basis of long-held misconceptions while ignoring two crucial points: the state cannot maintain a reliable electricity grid or meet targets set in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) without nuclear energy.

New York’s six reactors generate one-third of the state’s electricity. Of the state’s electricity sources that do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases, nuclear energy generates 61 percent. That’s why hundreds of people rallied Oct. 5 in upstate New York to keep the Fitzpatrick nuclear plant operational.

Despite these sizeable percentages, a vocal minority is seeking to close New York’s nuclear facilities. Through this misguided effort, they are advocating for the elimination of one of the most powerful tools in the toolbox to fight climate change.

Under EPA’s regulation, New York must reduce carbon dioxide by more than 3 million short tons a year by 2030. If just one nuclear energy facility comes off line between now and 2030, New York will have an incredibly difficult time meeting this target.

For example, if Indian Point Energy Center were to close prematurely, New York would have to find 18.2 million megawatt hours of clean energy a year to replace it. To put that in perspective, this is as much as 150 square miles of solar panels — more than four times the size of Manhattan. Replacing it with wind would require 520 to 720 square miles of wind farms —more than all five boroughs put together. Furthermore, wind and solar power are intermittent electricity producers. So, new natural gas plants would be needed for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

It goes without saying that investments in wind and solar energy should be a part of New York’s electricity portfolio. The state should embrace all forms of clean energy — especially in light of growing electricity demand.

If we can agree upon the need to move toward a clean energy portfolio, then we should support New York’s nuclear energy facilities. In doing so, New York will preserve 18,000 in-state full time jobs and a nearly $2.5 billion boost to the state’s gross domestic product, according to a recent study by The Brattle Group.

Nuclear energy’s foes should look at the facts: with nuclear energy you get clean energy — and without nuclear energy, the CPP’s targets will be out of reach.

Ambassador Ron Kirk is co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. He previously served as U.S. trade representative and mayor of Dallas.