Report: Nuclear Plant Closures Will Negatively Affect Environment And Economy

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A recent study revealed the imminent closures of several nuclear plants would not only severely damage the U.S. economy but also carry negative consequences for the environment.

The Brattle Group’s Monday report predicted the environmental and economic ramifications of four nuclear plant closures in Ohio and Pennsylvania would be near catastrophic, resulting in thousands of layoffs and a higher amount of pollutants entering the atmosphere. The study examined what would ultimately happen if the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station (OH) Perry Nuclear Generating Station (OH), Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (Pa.) and Beaver Valley Power Station (Pa.) all close down, which is expected to happen if the federal government does not step in to rescue the failing plants.

Among the study’s key findings: annual CO2 emissions would increase by more than 20 million metric tons; harmful air pollutants such as NOx and SO2 would see an annual increase; electricity costs would rise dramatically for energy consumers, increasing by as much as $285 million a year for Pennsylvanians and $400 million for Ohio residents.

Such results would happen as energy consumers in the area would pivot from nuclear to fossil fuel sources such as natural gas.

“As this report makes clear, policymakers should take note of the critical environmental and economic contributions of our nation’s nuclear plants, especially where their continued operation is threatened,” Brattle Principals and study authors Drs. Mark Berkman and Dean Murphy wrote. “Any discussion of Pennsylvania’s and Ohio’s energy futures must recognize the significant environmental and economic risks associated with allowing these four plants to close. The impending closures indicate a significant concession in their clean energy commitments.”

The study follows continued discussion on what will ultimately be done about the unprofitable plants FirstEnergy Corp. mostly owns and operates. The major electric utility filed for bankruptcy on March 31 as the nuclear and coal industry continues to decline amid increasing competition from natural gas. FirstEnergy asked President Donald Trump’s administration for a “202-C” grid emergency, which would keep the plants running. The request is simply a bailout for mismanagement, critics argue. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is not looking into the 202 option but is actively considering other avenues to keep the plants from closing, the secretary suggested.

“If these plants close, the livelihoods of thousands of Ohio and Pennsylvania residents will disappear. The over 3,000 highly skilled individuals directly employed by these sites will leave to seek employment at other facilities still operating around the country,” International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Lonnie Stephenson stated in a Nuclear Matters Monday news release. “In total, thousands of jobs that directly or indirectly rely on the nuclear industry in this region will be lost. Positions at nuclear plants are good, well-paying jobs for hardworking residents; and without them, the fabric of these communities will be torn apart.”

The economic and environmental benefits of keeping nuclear plants in operation have been acknowledged in other states around the country.

The New Jersey legislature overwhelmingly passed a $300 million subsidy bill April 12 to keep three nuclear reactors in the state from closing. Newly elected Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign the legislation.

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