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Bailout tax: Profitable corporations need to come clean on nuclear energy

Penn Live, By Eric Epstein, Maureen Mulligan and David Hughes, guest contributors

It is the duty of state legislators to draft laws that respond to the needs of the districts that they represent. Some electric utility companies that own low or unprofitable nuclear plants want Pennsylvania lawmakers to enact legislation that will provide subsidies to utilities that own and operate uneconomical nuclear power plants.

Proponents of a nuclear bailout tax frequently argue that these subsidies are necessary for grid reliability and to meet statewide greenhouse gas emissions goals, and that plant closures would create economic hardships in the communities where they operate. While these are all important priorities, the measures the nuclear power industry is proposing would not produce the proclaimed results.

PJM Interconnection, the regional power grid operator responsible for grid reliability for 65 million customers in 21 states including Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region, has published multiple studies making it clear that closing these plants would not affect grid reliability. The lights will continue to shine if uneconomical nuclear power plants retire, thanks in part to increased solar and wind generation coming online throughout the state.

An analysis by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) provides evidence that “continuing to operate these plants does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from current levels.” In fact, more cost-effective, economically productive and environmentally benign options are available.

As multiple studies have proved, despite the mythology, nuclear power is not a carbon-free source of energy. Greenhouse gases are emitted in all stages of the life cycle of a nuclear reactor: construction, operation, fuel production, dismantling and waste disposal. In addition, nuclear plants routinely vent some of the deadliest gases known to exist.

And, of course, there is the issue of what to do with the dangerous radioactive waste. Nuclear power is an old and expensive technology. Subsidizing aging, unprofitable reactors on the verge of retirement anyway diverts large financial resources from investments in new technologies and infrastructure and slows renewable energy growth that is driving down emissions without seeking a handout.

The analysis by NIRS highlights that potential job losses can be addressed without making electricity ratepayers pay more to bail out the owners of these uneconomical plants. In fact, the increased energy costs to manufacturers — some of the biggest energy users in the commonwealth — as a result of a nuclear bailout could lead to job losses and lack of economic growth in the state that are the same or worse than a plant closure. …….

February 21, 2019 - Posted by | business and costs, politics, USA

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