Study Says Nuclear Industry Collapse Would Devastate CO2 Reduction Goals
Early closure of nuclear power plants, which were shunned by the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, would dramatically undermine the plan’s central goal of reducing the country’s carbon footprint, a report from think-tank Third Way concludes.
The study, done with help from Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, says without a viable nuclear power fleet, the Clean Power Plan could simply backfire, returning carbon emissions to benchmark levels.
Industry advocates have expressed their concerns that the Clean Power Plan that allows states to claim credit for renewable power sources puts existing nuclear plants at a competitive disadvantage. Under the latest proposal, states can claim credit for the five nuclear power plants currently under construction, but the country’s existing nuclear power fleet remains shut out of the program, despite their ability to generate carbon-free electricity.
In short, the plan puts nuclear power plants at risk of early closure, as they might no longer be profitable with the Clean Power Plan as it stands.
The White House has set the goal of reducing the country’s carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent compared to 2005 levels.
Third Way’s report concludes, “Emissions increases due to nuclear retirements would sabotage the carbon reductions targeted by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and, in the worst case, could wipe out a decade’s worth of progress by effectively returning U.S. electricity sector emissions to 2005 levels.”
The study directly assessed the impact of nuclear power plant closures by looking at three scenarios. In one scenario, the entire fleet of 100 existing nuclear power plants would be granted license extensions. In scenario two, licenses would not be extended and more than half of the existing fleet would close. In scenario three, all of the country’s nuclear power fleet would be shuttered, except for the five currently under construction.
The report said “any widespread retirement” of America’s nuclear power plants would make an emissions reduction of 32 percent below 2005 levels extremely difficult to achieve.