State’s Critical Moment In Nuclear Energy

December 7, 2018

We are at a critical moment in Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry. Two of the state’s five nuclear facilities (Three Mile Island, outside of Harrisburg, and Beaver Valley in western Pennsylvania) will be prematurely shut down starting next year because of an inability to compete in today’s energy market flooded with abundant natural gas. The public policy question before all Pennsylvanians is: Does the state of our nuclear industry require government action? Nearly two years ago, we formed the Nuclear Energy Caucus, a bipartisan group of both senators and representatives of the Pennsylvania General Assembly — and the first of its kind in the nation — to help answer that question. We were joined by dozens of our Republican and Democratic colleagues, from every corner of our state, who came together to address this issue. Our goal was to provide decision-makers with the hard data, economic forecasts, and possible scenarios they now need to make some hard choices. After six public meetings, hours of stakeholder input, and thousands of pages of expert testimony, we are releasing our final report. Pennsylvania’s five nuclear power plants generate 83 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually — nearly 42 percent of the state’s electricity. Nuclear power plants can run 24/7 for 18-24 months without refueling and are not reliant on pipelines or train cars to produce their energy. The plants are also resilient, not affected by weather conditions and able to store energy on site. Economically, Pennsylvania’s nuclear industry contributes approximately $2.6 billion annually to the state’s gross domestic product, supports more than 15,600 jobs, and purchases more than $1.8 billion of materials, services, and fuel from more than 4,150 companies in Pennsylvania. And nuclear power plants pay more than $400 million in annual state and federal taxes, not to mention local property and school taxes. Environmentally, nuclear-generated electricity produces no carbon. Why does that matter? Two recent reports — the Trump Administration’s National Climate Assessment and the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — concluded that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change. At current rates, greenhouse gas emissions will cause warming levels to rise quicker than previously understood, leading to more severe weather, higher sea levels, and irreversible ecological damage—all at a cost of tens of trillions of dollars. This accelerated timetable requires more urgent action. Luckily, our current clean nuclear technology already prevents substantial emissions from carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. In fact, Pennsylvania’s current nuclear industry is the equivalent of eight million automobiles off our roads. Conversely, the closing of our nuclear facilities will further set us back from our state’s and country’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 25 years. The next few months will be of paramount importance to our state’s energy future. Decisions will have to be made about whether and how to act. None of choices will be painless, but make no mistake, doing nothing about Pennsylvania’s nuclear energy industry is also a choice. And it is a choice with real consequences. Studies show that the short-term cost to Pennsylvania consumers of losing this power in the electricity market is an estimated $285 million annually. Nuclear facilities cannot be re-started once they are shut down. Nuclear facility sites cannot be re-developed or re-purposed. Once a nuclear power plant is closed, it is closed forever. So now comes the hard part. The governor, legislative leaders, businesses, and community groups must now come together and decide the fate of our nuclear industry. The decision to act, or the decision to not act, will have lasting consequence in our communities, in our commonwealth, and across our nation. We are proud of the work the Nuclear Energy Caucus did and grateful to everyone who aided the process, provided testimony, and shared their stories.

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