Obama’s Clean Power Plan may actually be undermined if nuclear power plants are shut down. This news comes from a report by to Third Way, a non-partisan think tank located in Washington, DC.
The goal of the the administration’s plan is to cut 32% of fossil fuel emissions by 2035, but the report concludes that without the benefits of nuclear power plants, it will be nearly impossible to accomplish. Now, after much deliberation, the EPA has decided that the dangers created by these plants prohibits them from qualifying as clean energy producers.
The report was compiled with assistance from researchers at MIT, and based off three different scenarios. Each scenario examined the results of shutting down a certain number of nuclear plants. In the first, all the reactors are allowed to run until 2035. In the second, half of the reactors would be shut down. In the third, all nuclear plants would be shut down, other than those currently under construction. The middle scenario, which is considered likely to occur, would mean that emissions goals are not met.
The MIT model unfortunately demonstrates that, at this point in time, the energy generated by nuclear power will be replaced by natural gas instead of renewables.
Jesse Jenkins, who was a consultant for the report, explains that renewables would need to generate 31% of US energy by 2030, 4.5 times more than the current contribution.
However, Stephen Lacey of GreenTechMedia points out that because natural gas and renewables are so cheap, it is becoming less profitable to run a nuclear power plant. In addition, the models only included renewable energy installations mandated by the government. He argues that since it is impossible to know what the renewables market will look like 20 years from now, the report may not paint the whole picture.
So, do the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the dangers? Which is a higher priority: zero-carbon electricity or reducing the number of nuclear plants worldwide?