The sentiment is turning … after 43 years of safe reliable electricity production, since Three Mile Island, the nation’s nuclear plants have ridden out the post–Three Mile Island cancellations and post-Fukushima shutdowns. During this time, we have gone from 106 operating reactors to only 93 but those remaining are starting to receive the attention they so rightly deserve – providing reliable, resilient, zero-carbon emission electricity over 95% of the time – operating under the radar, during extreme weather conditions, with their climate and pocketbook benefits are taken for granted.
Electricity rates in many areas are soaring but not due to nuclear plants operating. For example, let’s look at New York City where rates have been rising, long before Russia’s assault on Ukraine. The rates are being blamed on the cost of natural gas, but do you remember when New York shutdown one of its nuclear plants, Indian Point. This caused Con-Edison to rely on natural gas and other fossil-fuel plants to replace that loss of power, resulting in increased costs due to spiraling natural gas prices.
Although wind and solar costs have been falling, their pace in producing this power has fallen way short of expectations, belying all the promises made by “safe energy” advocates who helped engineer Indian Point’s closure.
The emission goals set by various state legislatures are bearing down upon us. To meet them we need every green-energy addition to replace the equivalent fossil fuel generators, but instead – just as in the loss of Indian Pont – more reliance has been placed on fossil fuel generators, so the net result has been an increase in carbon emissions. Recently, “greenies” have boasted about the increase in leases for ocean wind farms off Long Island and New Jersey. But to make up for Indian Point’s energy output will require about half or more of the hoped-for 7,000 megawatts of offshore wind, badly undermining the legislative commitment to rid the New York grid of carbon emissions by 2040.
In California, we have a similar dilemma, Diablo Canyon’s two reactors have provided 2,200 megawatts of resilient, reliable zero-carbon emissions for decades. Shutting them down by 2025 will require much more renewable capacity (roughly 7,000 megawatts) due to their capacity factor which is much less than the 95% that Diablo Canyon provides. Thus, once again, a LOSS in the reduction of carbon emissions – instead, they will INCREASE until these 2,200 megawatts are fully replaced by some other zero-carbon emission sources. That resultant, maybe approaching but it is still very far away. According to data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), 50% of California’s electricity still comes from fossil-fuel sources, although it is 12% less than it was in 2015. This reduction in carbon emission is attributed to the increase in solar power, amounting to more than 15 billion kWh annually. However, shutting down Diablo Canyon takes away 17 billion kWh annually of carbon-free emissions. Therefore, the net result once again is a LOSS in the reduction of carbon emissions – instead they will INCREASE.
Many believe that the climate crisis has exploded ahead of schedule, not as a distant warning but in the result of actual fires, floods, and the rise of the global sea-level. But Diablo and other US nuclear plants have proved they are solid climate benefactors, faithfully churning out resilient, reliable electricity without combusting carbon fuels, even during extreme weather events. No one can deny that letting existing reactors like Diablo Canyon remain in service keeps fossil fuels in the ground and their carbon emissions out of our atmosphere. Let’s keep them operating as we transition to a renewable future, if this approach is not realized – carbon-emissions will INCREASE, and rolling BLACKOUTS and BROWNOUTS will become the NORM.