Pennsylvania decides whether to subsidize nuclear energy as “clean”

By Heather Wuest, April 22, 2019

Pennsylvania Capitol East Wing Credit: Niagara via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Cropped

To drive growth in its clean energy market and combat climate change, Pennsylvania adopted the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act in 2004.This requires energy companies to buy specific percentages of their total electricity from clean energy sources. The requirements started small but are designed to increase over time.

There are now 16 different clean energy choices for electric utilities to choose from in Pennsylvania. But new legislation would include a 17th clean generation option—nuclear power. Bills introduced in the state’s House and Senate are intended to prevent the retirement of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant outside Harrisburg and the Beaver Valley plant near Pittsburgh. Both plants are set for closure because they cannot compete on price with electricity from natural gas-fired power plants and renewable energy sources.

Adding nuclear to the clean energy list would not be a simple or inexpensive process. Pennsylvania energy consumers would have to pay hundreds of millions in subsidies to make the nuclear plants economically viableIt’s a process that other energy generators and the manufacturing sector worry will distort Pennsylvania’s energy market. But the nuclear industry supports roughly 16,000 industry jobs and generates 93 percent of the electricity produced in the state by sources that don’t emit carbon dioxide in the process. 

Pennsylvania is hardly alone in its quest to buy clean energy; many other states are implementing plans that require energy companies to purchase set amounts so-called “carbon-free” electricity. In some states, nuclear is subsidized as a “green” energy source; in others, it is not. In Pennsylvania, it may be. The battle over that issue will play out in the state Legislature between now and early June, when the owner of the Three Mile Island plant is expected to decide whether to refuel or close it.    


Publication Name: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 
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Noel WauchopeRod AdamsHeather MattesonDavid Gaeddert Recent comment authors
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David Gaeddert
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David Gaeddert

After the TMI meltdown in ’79 and results, why is there even a discussion? There is ample evidence that nuclear power plants are poor neighbors even with out disasters. On top of operating subsidies, this course would increase the amount of spent fuel and other nuclear waste that would be a problem for thousands of years. Come on people, we can do better!

Noel Wauchope
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They just keep parroting “clean” nuclear – so journalists and politicians mindlessly repeat this greenwash.

Heather Matteson
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Heather Matteson

Refuel! When we close existing nuclear plants, emissions go up. Period. This is proven by the closure of Vermont Yankee, San Onofre, and many others. This is the opposite of progress for our climate. We must preserve all existing nuclear.

Rod Adams
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Ms. Wuest: Why did you slant your article by using phrases like “so-called ‘carbon-free’ electricity” and putting scare quote around “green” when referring to nuclear generated electricity? Nuclear fission is a non combustion process of generating heat. It is clean enough to power sealed submarines. According to the best available science as accepted by the International Panel on Climate Change, lifecycle emissions analysis that takes into account all of the combustion used during plant construction and continuing fuel supply produces about 14 gm CO2/kwh, roughly the same as industrial scale wind and about half of industrial scale solar. Nuclear plants… Read more »

Noel Wauchope
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To Rod Adams. So you reckon that it’s OK to call nuclear energy “green”. Well, I guess if you eliminate all the greenhouse gases involved in the total nuclear fuel chain, from uranium mining through all the processes, including the grave of dead reactors, and graves for radioactive trash. If you don’t count the radioactive trash piling up all over the place, and if you don’t count Chalk River, Rocky Flats, Windscale, Mayak, Soviet ice-breaker Lenin, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Tomsk, Hanford, Fukushima…. And if you don’t count the intrinsic connection with nuclear weapons – well, I guess that you… Read more »

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