REPORT: Half Of All US Nuclear Reactors Are Risking Closure

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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About half of U.S. nuclear reactors are at risk of closing early, according to a new report by a self-described centrist think tank.

The report, by Third Way, found in the past two years, six states have shut down nuclear plants and that “dozens” of other plants across the U.S. are facing challenging economic conditions, placing them at risk of imminent retirement.

Third Way notes eight nuclear reactors have announced retirement plans.

“Nuclear power plants across the country are facing economic headwinds and are at risk of closure, threatening the foundations of America’s clean energy progress,” reads a summary of the report. “Taking action now to maintain the nation’s nuclear reactor fleet is among the lowest-cost clean energy options available today and should be an essential component of U.S. clean energy goals.”

The Omaha Public Power District announced in October it was closing a Nebraska nuclear power plant that boasts 700 jobs..The plant’s closure will greatly harm the local area and add to its economic woes. Large scale layoffs at the Fort Calhoun plant will begin next year, with 400 people getting terminated over the next 20 months.

Decommissioning reactors can cost up to $1.5 billion and take up to 60 years to complete, but this is still cheaper than losing money to subsidized wind and solar power.

Unlike solar and wind, nuclear power receives little to no support from 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.

The average nuclear plant is required to spend $22 million annually simply complying with government regulations and getting regulatory approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build a new reactor can take up to 25 years.

The NRC requires so much paperwork from the nuclear power providers that the average plant requires 86 full-time employees just to go through it all.

Third Way worries that “today’s power markets do not fully value the climate and grid benefits of America’s nuclear fleet” and argues if plants close, their replacements will be far worse for the environment.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that when nuclear power plants shut down, typically more than half of the electricity they generated was replaced by natural gas or coal power

“In addition to the climate and grid benefits, preserving these plants maintains thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity and federal and state tax revenue,” reads Third Way’s report.

America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors at 61 nuclear power plants, according to the EIA.

The average nuclear plant employs between 400 and 700 workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. A reactor visted by The Daily Caller New Foundation in April shells out $22.8 million in tax revenue each year.

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