Shutting down nuclear plants would erase decades of clean energy progress, report warns

April 23, 2018 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PEC in the News

The looming retirements of four nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio would set back regional attempts to cut emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, negating decades of efforts to transition to carbon-free sources of electricity.

That conclusion, in a report by the Brattle Group for the organization Nuclear Matters, is raising awareness about the environmental consequences of closing the plants, including the Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport.

More attention has been given so far to the significant job losses and weakened local economies that would follow if the plants shut down. The Beaver Valley plant alone employs about 800 workers.

The potential climate implications have been muted in part because environmental groups — normally at the front of state efforts to combat such damage — are dismayed by rescue proposals that link the survival of nuclear plants they want to save with coal plants they want to close.

Other environmental organizations oppose nuclear power because of the risks of high-consequence accidents and problems with long-term disposal of the plants’ radioactive waste.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council, which tends to work more closely with industry than other state green groups, has been engaging in conversations about what it will take to drastically reduce the amount of carbon in Pennsylvania’s energy supply.

Davitt Woodwell, the council’s president, said one avenue would be to put a price on carbon — which would have the benefit of supporting nuclear generators and creating economic incentives for coal and gas plants to begin capturing their emissions — without requiring government subsidies.

Mr. Woodwell said his reaction to news of the nuclear plant retirements was, “We’ve got a very narrow window of time to try to not allow that to happen.”

“Something has to be done in the near term so that those business decisions can be reversed.”

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