Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Retiring Nuclear Power Plants May Undercut U.S. Climate Goals - The New York Times

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa. (Credit: Z22) Click to Enlarge.
Over the last decade, a glut of cheap natural gas from hydraulic fracturing has driven hundreds of dirtier coal plants in the United States out of business, a big reason carbon dioxide emissions fell to 2016.

But more recently, that same gas boom has started pushing many of America’s nuclear reactors into early retirement — a trend with adverse consequences for climate change.

The United States’ fleet of 99 nuclear reactors still supplies one-fifth of the country’s electricity without generating any planet-warming greenhouse gases.  When those reactors retire, wind and solar usually cannot expand fast enough to replace the lost power.  Instead, coal and natural gas fill the void, causing emissions to rise.

Some environmental groups that have long been hostile to nuclear power are now having second thoughts.  “We don’t support unlimited subsidies to keep these nuclear plants open,” said John Finnigan, lead counsel with the Environmental Defense Fund.  “But we are concerned that if you close these plants today, they’d be replaced by natural gas and emissions would go up.”

Faced with looming nuclear plant shutdowns, several states are considering a difficult and sometimes unpopular option:  subsidizing their existing nuclear reactors to keep them running for years to come.

Read more at How Retiring Nuclear Power Plants May Undercut U.S. Climate Goals

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