Energy

Seattle’s Socialist Council Member Gets Her Way, Bans Nuclear Power

REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

Seattle City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to replace the city’s nuclear power with wind and solar.

The measure was sponsored by openly socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who claims the unanimous vote means the city is “taking a stand against nuclear energy.” Sawant was supported by activists from the state’s chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and other environmental groups. These activists allege that Columbia Generating Station, the reactor Seattle gets power from, is unsafe and vulnerable to earthquakes.

“Yesterday’s resolution doesn’t amount to much; it’s kind of irrelevant for those genuinely concerned about our state’s energy future,” Michael Paoli, a spokesperson for the company which owns the Columbia nuclear power plant, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The council vote was unfortunate. We don’t believe Seattle is anti-nuclear or anti-clean energy per se. They just got a lot of really bad info yesterday that went unchallenged, and, unfortunately, they acted on it.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s estimates the risk of an earthquake intense enough to cause core damage to the reactor at Columbia was one in 147,619.

Seattle gets four percent of its electricity from Washington state’s only commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station. This single plant produces 1,190 megawatts of electricity, about 10 percent of the electricity generated in the state. The reactor has been generating power since 1984 and is licensed to keep doing so till 2043.

“We thought one of the council-members actually showed some pretty good due diligence yesterday when she challenged the resolution sponsor by saying something along the lines of, ‘Talk more about green energy, what are we doing or asking others to do? What are the next steps and what are we doing to promote green energy as a city/region?” Paoli continued. “It wasn’t hard to listen between the lines of the response to hear the crickets. That, if nothing else, should disturb Seattleites.”

The average single nuclear reactor prevents 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions annually and accounts for 63 percent of non-CO2 emitting power sources. Nuclear power is far cheaper than wind or solar power, making it “the most cost-effective zero-emission technology,” according to The Economist. Despite these environmental benefits and falling CO2 emissions, environmental groups continue to heavily lobby against nuclear power. Green groups like The Sierra Club openly state they believe nuclear energy leads to “energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and other environmental groups have a long history of attempting to shut down Columbia Generating Station and nuclear power in general, calling it “Dirty, Dangerous and Expensive,”  however the group is very much in the academic minority. The advantages of nuclear power have caused large majorities of scientists, engineers and economists to support it. Opinion polls show that the more people who know about nuclear power, the more likely they are to support it.

America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. When the two-reactor San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California was shuttered in 2012, consumers paid an extra $350 million for electricity, according to academic research.

Unlike solar and wind, nuclear power receives no federal tax credits or state green energy mandates. Nuclear power does receive subsidies, but it gets 81.5 times less than solar power per unit of energy generated.

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