Report: Nuclear retirements could scuttle Clean Power Plan climate goals
There are five nuclear plants under construction in the United States right now, and about 104 GW of capacity already online. Those plants will be vital to meeting the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan goals, a new report finds, despite concern from the industry that the emissions reduction strategy isn’t properly valuing their generation.
Third Way examined three scenarios in its study: One in which all nuclear licenses are extended to 60 years; one in which reactors are not extended after their 40 year terms; and a complete phase-out that leaves just the under-construction plants operating in 2025. While the worst-case scenario is unlikely, the research showed it would skyrocket emissions levels back a decade and bring massive amounts of gas generation online.
“The overwhelming majority of U.S. nuclear energy capacity would be replaced by natural gas, resulting in a significant increase in carbon emissions,” the study concluded. “If America’s nuclear plants begin retiring in droves, achieving the Clean Power Plan emissions reductions could be impossible.”
Even with all plants operating 60 years, including those currently at risk of retirement, more work needs to be done. Without factoring in efforts to meet CPP goals, even under the optimistic license-extension model, Third Way found emissions would grow about 5.5% from 2012 levels due to growth in U.S. electricity demand and would leave the country’s emissions about 20% above targets.