Tags: pennsylvania | nuclear | power plant | carbon footprint

Debate Mushrooms Over Bailout of PA's Nuclear Plants

Debate Mushrooms Over Bailout of PA's Nuclear Plants
(Artem Samokhvalov/Dreamstime.com)

By Monday, 29 April 2019 02:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

A debate is mushrooming in Pennsylvania, and it’s going nuclear.

At its core, the issue involves legislation that would ensure the continued operation of the state’s nuclear power plants. Should no action be taken, two of Pennsylvania’s five nuclear facilities will shut down prematurely.

Some call it a bailout, but that’s not accurate. Instead, the bill designates the plants as sources of carbon-free energy, and add nuclear power to the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, a law requiring utilities to buy power from clean and alternative energy sources.

Foes have gone atomic, from the natural gas industry (a competitor) to environmental groups, many of which advocate the elimination of nuclear power. Yet when those arguments, borne of self-interest and naivete, are jettisoned, a clearer picture emerges as to why bolstering the state’s plants is critical: Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation in electricity generated from nuclear power, and its plants account for 42 percent of the state's net electricity generation (and 90 percent of its carbon-free power) — more than from any other energy source. Overall, nuclear power supplies for one-fifth of the nation’s electricity.

In addition to thousands of high-paying jobs that would be lost if the nuclear plants shut down, nuclear power is the only source of large-quantity zero emission energy (solar, wind, and hydro produce only a small fraction of energy needs). In fact, closing Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants would increase the state’s current carbon footprint, since the slack would be picked up by emission-producing coal and natural gas plants.

Without question, and for obvious reasons, it is in America’s best interest to have a diversified power structure. Yet whenever an accident occurs, such as at Japan’s Fukushima plant in 2011, there are calls to reevaluate our nuclear power program — code-speak for phasing it out of existence.

That’s a misguided mentality.

Nuclear energy is a highly-reliable, zero-emission power source that significantly reduces Western reliance on foreign oil. It would make no sense to reduce America’s nuclear facilities solely because of isolated problems that occur half a world away. The Fukushima accident resulted from Japan being on the Ring of Fire, home to 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 75 percent of its volcanos. But since America, for the most part, doesn’t sit on that Ring, it doesn’t incur that risk.

The United States’ 99 nuclear plants account for a whopping 20 percent of our electricity consumption, and 64 percent of our zero-carbon emissions. Ironically, it was former President Obama, in bucking many of his core constituencies, who successfully arranged loan guarantees for the first new nuclear plant in over 30 years, starting what could be a limited nuclear power revival.

Opponents of nuclear power can’t have it both ways. If paying less at the pump, bolstering national security and reducing greenhouse emissions are important, then nuclear power is the only energy source that can deliver all three.

Fact is, nuclear power is safe. As with anything, risks exist, but with proper oversight and increased fail-safe measures, many of which were implemented after 9/11, those risks are well within acceptable limits. And for the record, this author is not a NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), as four nuclear plants surround my region.

Outside of the Three Mile Island incident in 1979, there has never been a major accident in the United States. No one was injured or killed, and numerous independent evaluations, including a 13-year study of 32,000 people, concluded that there were no adverse effects to the surrounding population.

And numerous ships in the U.S. Navy are nuclear-powered (including all aircraft carriers and submarines), allowing them to travel nonstop at high speed without needing to refuel for 25 years. Not only do these vessels represent a huge cost savings and are environmentally friendly, since they forego two decades’ worth of oil, but they are an incalculable asset to America’s national security. In more than 5,400 “reactor years” of operation with 500 reactors, and well over 130 million miles steamed, there has never been a nuclear accident.

America’s nuclear energy policy must not be formulated by what occurs elsewhere, be they natural disasters (Japan) or human incompetence (Chernobyl).

The silver lining of Fukushima is that we have increased our nuclear-power knowledge from that unfortunate series of events. Those “lessons learned,” combined with the huge technology advances that have been realized from the days of TMI, make America’s nuclear program the envy of the world.

Johnny Carson once joked, “A two-pound turkey and a fifty-pound cranberry — that's Thanksgiving dinner at Three Mile Island."

Funny, but nothing could be further from the truth. If we ignore nuclear power’s gift of clean, safe, and limitless energy by allowing Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants to prematurely fade into oblivion, climate change will have the last laugh, and the joke will be on us.

Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris FreindClick Here Now.

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If we ignore nuclear power’s gift of clean, safe, and limitless energy by allowing Pennsylvania’s nuclear plants to prematurely fade into oblivion, climate change will have the last laugh, and the joke will be on us.
pennsylvania, nuclear, power plant, carbon footprint
Monday, 29 April 2019 02:39 PM
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