As You Were Saying…Nuke plants key to energy plans
I am often asked about the future of nuclear energy in the United States. And I always respond by saying that’s the wrong question.
The right question is what’s the nation’s energy policy — because we are going to need every low-carbon source of energy in order to meet our need for environmentally friendly, reliable, and affordable energy. In addition to wind, solar and natural gas, we must include existing nuclear plants, along with construction of a new generation of nuclear plants, improvements in demand management, and greater energy efficiency.
Today nuclear provides over 60 percent of the nation’s low-carbon electricity, four times more than wind and solar and three times more than hydro.
Nuclear energy is essential to providing reliable electricity in New England. Pilgrim in Massachusetts, Seabrook in New Hampshire, and two units in Millstone, Conn., have a combined output of over 4,000 megawatts while providing about 30 percent of the region’s electricity. In contrast, renewables like solar and wind provide only about 2 percent of the electricity which is only available when the weather cooperates.
Natural gas, though cleaner than coal, is not a panacea. In the long run, it is actually part of the problem. Natural gas (methane) is itself a greenhouse gas that is much more damaging than carbon dioxide. And gas when burned accounts for a quarter of the nation’s carbon emissions from electricity production.