Getting Rid Of California’s Last Nuclear Reactor Will Increase CO2 Emissions

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Environmentalists promised last week that the electricity generated by the soon to be closed Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant would be replaced with wind and solar, but plans to do so are already collapsing.

Media reports acknowledged Tuesday that shutting down the reactor would actually boost greenhouse gas emissions, even if it was replaced entirely with wind and solar power. Studies have shown that replacing nuclear with wind and solar power would double CO2 emissions by making the electrical grid unreliable. This unreliability would need to be compensated for by building new conventional  power plants, which would create more CO2 emissions.

Green groups including Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) made a deal with a California power company last week to shutdown the Diablo Canyo plant starting in 2024.

When the state of California closed the two-reactor San Onofre nuclear plant in 2012, CO2 rose by 9 million metric tons, which is equivalent to putting another 2 million cars onto the road. The average 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.

Not all environmentalists agreed with the decision to shut down the plant and some even fought to keep Diablo Canyon’s two reactors online, as they produced 1,100 megawatts of electricity without generating any carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Despite these environmental benefits and falling CO2 emissions, environmental groups continue to heavily lobby against nuclear power. Green groups like The Sierra Club still believe nuclear energy leads to “energy over-use and unnecessary economic growth.

America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operated nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. The average nuclear 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. The Diablo Canyon reactors employs 1,400 people.

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