Closing Nuclear Plants Is Causing California’s CO2 Emissions To Soar

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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California’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are two-and-a-half times higher because the state shut down nuclear reactors, according to the pro-nuclear green group Environmental Progress (EP).

“No state has done more to prove we need nuclear power to reduce air pollution than California,” Michael Shellenberger, president of EP, told The Daily Caller.

“[N]o politician has done more to kill nuclear plants — and then greenwash about it — than Gov. Jerry Brown,” Shellenberger said. “Every time he blocks or closes a nuclear plant — invariably with the help of Sierra Club and NRDC, who take money from and invest in fossil fuels — we burn fossil fuels instead, and pollution rises.”

EP looked at nuclear reactors plants “already built but closed” and “were not yet under construction but were close to construction and had a utility operator intent on building it.” The group did not consider reactors that were “defeated in early planning stages.” By these metrics, California shuttered five reactors.

EP assumed natural gas plants replaced the nuclear reactors to calculate additional CO2 emissions from closures. Most of the cancelled or closed reactors, however, were likely replaced by coal, which produces about twice as much CO2 as natural gas when burned to generate power.

California’s CO2 emissions declined by less than the U.S. national average, according to EP. The state must reduce emissions at least 7 times faster than the current rate to meet its 2030 climate goals.

“Every time Brown grandstands about the environment he’s closing nuclear plants and worsening pollution,” Shellenberger said. “Is it any wonder that he manipulated environmental laws in the 1970s to maintain his family’s monopoly on oil imported for electricity production?”

“Is it a coincidence that his sister is a director of one of the country’s most powerful natural gas companies — the one responsible for one of the worst methane leaks in history?” Shellenberger said.

“Brown lies — but the numbers don’t,” Shellenberger concluded. “Future historians will harshly judge Brown’s horrible environmental record,  and the deeply corrupt manner in which he governs.”

Officials at California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, announced in June that it would close down in 2025 due to a deal made between the utility, the state government and environmental groups, Friends of the Earth and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

EP points out that the NRDC has heavy investments in companies which will benefit financially from Diablo Canyon’s closure. As a result, some environmentalists even fought to keep Diablo Canyon’s two reactors online, as they produced 1,100 megawatts of electricity without generating any CO2 emissions. Nuclear power provides about 63 percent of America’s CO2 free power. A single nuclear reactor can eliminate 3.1 million tons of CO2 emissions annually.

The utility which owns it will renounce plans to seek renewed operating licenses for Diablo Canyon’s two reactors and allow them to go offline in 2024 and 2025 respectively. The utility says it will replace the electricity from the reactors with green energy, but this will likely prove to be an enormous technical challenge.

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 employ 1,400 people.

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