Nuclear power plants warn of closure crisis
The nuclear power industry is sounding the alarm over the latest in a series of plant closures, warning that an energy source central to meeting President Obama’s climate change goals is deteriorating.
With nuclear providing the majority of carbon emissions-free electricity in the United States, utilities and suppliers in the industry say Obama’s planned 32 percent reduction in power-sector carbon is impossible if reactors keep shutting down.
“This president has been largely very supportive,” said Richard Myers, vice president of policy development at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).
“He recognizes, as do his staff at the White House, that when you do the arithmetic on climate change, you cannot sustain reductions in carbon emissions or reduce carbon emissions without a pretty hefty contribution from nuclear power.”
But while Obama has made it clear that he supports nuclear power, there’s little he can do to stop the economic forces that make power plants expensive to operate — or the state and regional electricity policies the industry complains are hurting them.
Entergy Corp. announced this week its plans to close the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant near Syracuse, N.Y., the seventh nuclear power plant to announce impending closure in recent years, out of the 60 plants currently operating throughout the country.
A few weeks earlier, Entergy said it would close the Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station in Massachusetts.
They’re both major losses in the industry’s efforts to counter the nation’s dwindling nuclear power operations. Proponents argue that nuclear power should get special treatment that gives it a leg up, given its lack of air pollution and reliability.
Obama gave nuclear a big win in August with his climate rule for power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will count newly built nuclear plants toward states’ compliance with the rule, as the industry requested. But it won’t count existing plants, which the NEI also wanted.