Cuomo Helped Fossil Fuel Usage Surge In Just 1 Week By Shutting Down Nuclear Power Plant

(Photo by MIKE SEGAR/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Font Size:

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration successfully completed the shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant April 30, and fossil fuel usage in the state has seen an immediate jump.

The last reactor at Indian Point, about 25 miles away from New York City, was shut down in an effort to move toward “safer” energy. Cuomo has been a longtime opponent of nuclear power, arguing that having a nuclear plant so close to a dense population center defies “basic sanity.”

Since the first two of Indian Point’s three reactors were shut down — the first in 1973, the second in 2020 — most of the energy to replace the plant’s lost production has been generated by burning natural gas, according to The New York Times. Cuomo’s plans have called for half the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030, but a state law passed in 2019 raised the target to 70%.

When the plant’s second reactor was shut down in 2020, gas-fueled power jumped from 36% of the state’s energy supply to 40%. State officials argue that the closing of Indian Point will only be a temporary step back until more renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, are built, according to The Times.

Some environmental groups celebrated the shutdown despite its negative impact on climate change. The Natural Resources Defense Council lauded the shutdown as a move that would “push back on fossil fuels” and shepherd New York toward more clean energy. (RELATED: Former Obama Official Claims In New Book That Climate Change Rhetoric Is ‘Effort To Persuade Rather Than Inform’)

Even if the energy from Indian Point is fully replaced by renewable sources, that won’t happen immediately, argued Breakthrough Institute senior climate and energy analyst Seaver Wang on Twitter. The construction of new solar panels and wind turbines, for instance, will also generate more CO2 emissions.

Nuclear power plants have saved the world more than 50 Gigatons of CO2 emissions over the past five decades, according to the International Energy Agency, .

The effects of the shutdown are already becoming clear. Monday, around 43% of statewide energy in New York was generated by burning fossil fuels, according to New York Times reporter Patrick McGeehan. That’s up from less than one-third of the state’s energy the week before, and it held true Tuesday as well, according to the New York ISO.

For much of Monday afternoon, with winds calm, the state’s entire supply of wind turbines produced about 5% of the power that Indian Point’s last two reactors could. Each of Indian Point’s reactors individually produced more power in 2020 than the state’s wind and solar sources combined. (RELATED: Is The Keystone XL Pipeline Actually Bad For The Environment?)

Scientific research has routinely demonstrated that modern nuclear power plants are exceptionally safe and are a critical tool in fighting climate change. Still, large swathes of the environmentalist movement oppose using more nuclear power, due to the rare instances of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred in the past and the ways that nuclear waste can damage the surrounding environment.