America needs its nuclear plants. Here’s why
We have seldom seen such an obvious public-policy choice as ensuring that America’s existing nuclear energy plants continue to operate. Unfortunately, many nuclear plants are threatened by a variety of conditions that contribute to their risk of premature closure. This is due, in large part, to a perfect storm of economic and policy challenges, including sluggish demand for electricity, the onset of cheap natural gas, and a constrained transmission system.
As we’ve experienced in our time as elected officials, there comes a time when action must be taken to do what’s best for constituents. In this case, it’s electricity consumers and Americans across the country. If nothing is done, the future likely entails a less dependable electricity supply, higher costs to consumers, and greater carbon emissions. This is not a course most Americans would embrace, and prematurely closing plants before the end of their useful lifespan would be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot.
The United States’ nuclear energy plants together contribute an impressive $60 billion to annual gross domestic product (GDP) annually, according to a report from the economic-consulting firm Brattle Group that was commissioned by Nuclear Matters. Nuclear plants provide $10 billion in federal-tax revenues and $2.2 billion in state tax revenues annually, and account for about 475,000 full-time jobs (both direct and secondary), the report found.
With regard to their ability to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the report found that the U.S. nuclear fleet prevents about 573 million tons of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to an additional $25 billion contribution annually if valued at the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimate. This makes clear that it would be virtually impossible to meet our nation’s clean energy goals, including President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, without nuclear. These plants also enable us to avoid 650,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and over one million tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions annually, which are together valued at $8.4 billion using the National Academy of Science’s externality estimates.