We are community activists, engineers, environmentalists, business professionals, and academics who share a desire for rapid deep decarbonization of the U.S. economy. We seek to prevent the premature shutdown of America’s nuclear power plants — our largest source of carbon-free energy.
In the absence of comprehensive federal climate policy, these reliable generators of clean energy are under disproportionate economic pressure, mainly in two ways. First, fossil methane is artificially cheap because the social cost of methane combustion — greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions — is externalized. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear power produces zero emissions and by law covers the cost of safely containing the very small amount of waste it produces.
Second, the structure and rules of electricity markets often discriminate against nuclear in several ways. Nuclear gets most of its revenue from sales of electricity, while intermittent solar and wind rely on out-of-market revenue streams, which allows them to bid in auctions at low, zero or even negative prices. Further, these markets do not value or compensate nuclear plants for their attributes of ancillary grid services, high reliability, high capacity factor, reliable dispatchable capacity, on-site fuel storage, resilience to extreme events & conditions, and long plant life. Market structures should be reviewed and reformulated, but this will take considerable time.
President Biden has pledged he would “leverage the carbon-pollution free energy provided by existing sources like nuclear and hydropower.” Unfortunately, 12.9% of our nation’s clean electricity generation is at risk of irreversible shut-down right now. Irrespective of growth in energy efficiency or renewables, removing nuclear power from the grid results in the avoidable fossil fuel combustion. Given the urgency and magnitude of the climate challenge, losing this much carbon-free energy is nothing less than a national emergency.
Nuclear plants provide essential baseload electricity. They also offer resiliency against weather-related disruptions of wind and solar generation, and against fuel shortages since they can store up to two years of fuel on site. Moreover, the institutional knowledge of workers and engineers who operate our existing fleet of reactors must be sustained if we are to regain our leadership in nuclear technology on the world stage. Losing that expertise to Russia or China would be harmful to our national interests.
Finally, the communities around our nation’s nuclear plants depend on these facilities for tax revenue and economic vitality. For example, New York’s largest producer of electricity in 2019, Indian Point Energy Center, currently employs 1,000 workers with an annual payroll totaling $140 Million. Diablo Canyon has 1,300 employees, Dresden 800, and Byron 830. Communities and school districts that were thriving are now in jeopardy because nuclear power’s clean electricity is not being properly valued.
To be clear, we are not “anti-renewable.” We welcome renewable energy where it replaces fossil fuels. We need both renewables and nuclear power to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Indeed, renewable energy is a much more credible solution to climate change if coupled with nuclear power. We are a long way from having to decide between them — we need both!
The Consensus Report “Accelerating Decarbonization of the U.S. Energy System” prepared by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine calls for the preservation of existing nuclear plants wherever possible. We urge you to follow this advice by declaring an emergency under Section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act and withholding or withdrawing any shut-down and decommissioning permits granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We also urge you to support Senate Bill S.4897 (the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020), House Bill H.R.9015 (Preserving Existing Nuclear Energy Generation Act), and proposals for a carbon fee to secure the long-term viability of nuclear power.
Saving our existing nuclear plants is the simplest, cheapest, and most immediate action we can take to protect the global climate and communities threatened by air pollution, and to secure the economic and strategic interests of our nation. Please support our campaign to #Protect Nuclear Now so that we preserve these critical clean energy assets and provide additional time to allow the Biden administration to figure out a way to rescue our nuclear “green giants,” protect our climate aspirations and grid reliability, while developing his administration Climate Plans.