This isn’t exactly a new story but today Politico notes that blue states that have recently shuttered nuclear power plants are now producing more CO2 emissions at a time when elected officials in those states keep talking about the need to battle climate change.
New York passed a law in 2019 requiring the state to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2040. But over the last two years, the exact opposite has happened: CO2 from power plants has climbed nearly 15 percent, according to EPA data…
The rise in emissions follows the closure of three nuclear facilities in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania since 2019. While all three states have expanded their renewable energy generation, natural gas has largely filled the void left by shuttered nuclear facilities, prompting emissions to rise…
In New York, power-sector emissions reached 28.5 million tons in 2021, up from 24 million tons in 2019, according to EPA figures. The increase coincided with the shutdown of Indian Point’s two nuclear units in 2019 and 2021.
In New England, emissions from power plants have risen from around 22 million tons in 2019, the year Pilgrim closed, to 25 million tons in 2021.
And Pennsylvania’s electricity emissions, which were less than 83 million tons in 2019, stood at 85 million tons last year.
None of this comes as a surprise. Last April, the NY Times warned that shutting down Indian Point plant in New York would lead to more use of fossil fuels. Even Vox has published a video arguing that shutting down the plant seemed not to be based on scientific concerns so much as irrational fear.
And it’s not just blue states in the US where this is happening. Germany is also shuttering its nuclear plants and relying more on natural gas and coal which won’t be phased out of the German energy system until 2038.
While some on the environmental left are gradually coming around to the idea that now is not the time to drop nuclear power, Bill Gates’ nuclear power company, Terra Power, is planning to build it’s first small-scale reactor in deep red Wyoming. Other coal states are also thinking about embracing the new reactor technology.
In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill last week eliminating a quarter-century ban on nuclear plant construction. And Indiana’s Senate passed a bill incentivizing the siting of next-generation nuclear plants at existing fossil plant sites.
Those bills follow nuclear-friendly legislation adopted the last two years in Wyoming and Montana, home to the nation’s largest coal-producing region, the Powder River Basin. And legislators in Missouri, another coal-dependent state, are also moving a bill to enable small modular reactors, or SMRs.
Nuclear energy’s push into coal country comes as aging fossil plants have closed or face economic pressure. That’s left states like West Virginia and Indiana looking at their future electricity needs and trying to help communities fill the economic void left when power plants shut down…
Just last week, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced a plan to bring an SMR online in the early 2030s at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn., where TVA has already secured an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Of course it remains to be seen if Terra Power or others can build the new SMRs at the price point they’ve claimed (Terra Power claims it will build the Wyoming reactor for $4 billion). Even if they can do it, those reactors won’t be fully up and running for years. That makes the decision to shut down existing plants even harder to explain. It’s not as if replacing these plants will happen anytime soon. Instead, what you have is states like New York switching to more fossil fuels even as elected officials argue that reducing CO2 levels should be is a top priority. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense.