Costs and Emissions Will Increase If Nuclear Plants Close

A report released this week by The Brattle Group says that if four nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania are allowed to retire early it will cause “substantially higher emissions of CO2 and other pollutants” and that there will be “a significant increase in electricity prices” not only in the two states, but also throughout the PJM Interconnection.

The report—prepared at the request of Nuclear Matters (a nuclear energy advocacy group)—is based on prior studies on the impacts of nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It specifically evaluates the combined effect that closing the 1,872-MW Beaver Valley and 837-MW Three Mile Island nuclear stations in Pennsylvania, and the 908-MW Davis-Besse and 1,268-MW Perry nuclear stations in Ohio, would have on the region. Plant owners have announced that all of the facilities will be closed over the next three years unless state or federal policies are enacted to keep the units profitable.

The report says if the plants were to continue operating, their output would offset “substantial fossil generation from gas and coal plants.”  This would avoid more than 21 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, as well as “tens of thousands of tons” of criteria pollutants. It says the total zero-emission generation of the four stations is “considerably greater than all solar and wind generation in PJM.”

The units also reduce customers’ electricity prices and contribute significantly to each of the states’ gross domestic product (GDP), according to the report. It says keeping the plants operating could reduce customers’ annual gross electricity costs by as much as $400 million in Ohio and $285 million in Pennsylvania. Furthermore, the generation could reduce electricity costs as much as $1.5 billion across all of PJM.

The plants are said to provide more than 3,000 direct jobs as well as other non-employee contractor jobs. The plants’ economic impact “supports thousands of additional secondary jobs, increases state GDP by hundreds of millions of dollars, and supports state and local tax revenues.”

“As this report makes clear, policymakers should take note of the critical environmental and economic contributions of our nation’s nuclear plants, especially where their continued operation is threatened,” Brattle Principals and study authors Drs. Dean Murphy and Mark Berkman said in a press release. “Any discussion of Pennsylvania’s and Ohio’s energy futures must recognize the significant environmental and economic risks associated with allowing these four plants to close. The impending closures indicate a significant concession in their clean energy commitments.”

Aaron Larson, executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)