Nuclear Plants Continue to Shut Down as CO2 Emissions Rise

Nuclear Plants Continue to Shut Down as CO2 Emissions Rise

Nuclear power provides the majority of America's green energy -- in 2020, it produced 52%. As a large source of jobs and a carbon-free energy source, maintaining and building more plants seems like a positive choice. However, many are shutting down, such as the Indian Point Energy Center in New York.

According to the Tax Foundation, "The last three years have seen the premature closure of plants that produced enough carbon-free electricity to power the equivalent of 4 million gasoline-powered cars." But, by passing a production tax credit, Congress can help keep nuclear power at the forefront of the energy movement.

Third Way: Why We Need To Save Our Nuclear Power Plants, February 3, 2022.

Why This Matters

For many years, nuclear energy has been a point of controversy within the environmental movement, largely because there is no ideal solution for storing used nuclear waste. However, nuclear power is a carbon-free energy source, responsible for saving "more than 476 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019," according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Additionally, nuclear plants don't need as much space to operate as other clean energy sources, like solar. As CO2 emissions continue to climb, using nuclear to reduce emissions is the next logical step in fighting the climate crisis.

US Department of Energy: 5 Fast Facts about Nuclear Energy, Apr 14, 2021.

WW0 Newsmaker of the Week: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Director of Climate & Energy, Third Way, December 17, 2021.

End of a Nuclear Era

A key factor in the decline of nuclear energy within the US is the government's decline in nuclear investments. Many green energy industries, such as solar and wind, receive governmental benefits like grants and tax credits to promote and increase green energy usage. However, nuclear companies aren’t receiving the same beneficial tax credits.

According to the Tax Foundation, "In 2018, nuclear energy received only roughly $100 million in tax benefits, compared to roughly $9.5 billion for renewables." Without these benefits, it's hard for the plants to remain competitive in the green market.

There haven't been any newly constructed plants in approximately 30 years. Ones in current operation were built between 1967 and 1990, and the trend of closing them continues. In April 2021, the Indian Point Energy Center shut down. According to Vox, while the plant was functional, it provided "more electricity than is produced annually by all solar and wind in New York state. After the shutdown, natural gas will make up for energy lost.

Vox: Why nuclear plants are shutting down, October 21, 2021.