At a time where the world is moving forward with cleaner, safer energy and lowering the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change, Connecticut is poised to take an important step forward.
Connecticut’s legislature recently approved a bipartisan bill to reform the complicated market for energy prices, providing long-term stability for existing carbon free nuclear power in Connecticut and setting the state on course to meet its commitments to address climate change. It positions Connecticut as a leader in the discussion of climate change and the future of our energy mix.
Because Americans increasingly are concerned about both producing more clean energy and creating more well-paying jobs, nuclear power makes more sense than ever. Nuclear power is also the only large-scale, around the clock source of carbon free electricity.
Nuclear power can run on demand and does so around the clock — twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Given this unique ability to produce carbon free electricity 24-7, it is not surprising that nuclear power accounts for 98 percent of the carbon free electricity produced in Connecticut. In other words, nuclear power and carbon free power in Connecticut are overwhelmingly one and the same.
It is also important to note that replacing existing nuclear power with other around the clock source of electricity could mean significant increases in air pollution, to the tune of millions of additional tons of carbon per year going into the atmosphere. One state assessment indicated that without existing nuclear energy, Connecticut would look to fossil fuel fired plants to make up the difference, which could mean a 27 percent increase in carbon emissions.
This is contrary to Connecticut’s commitment to move forward with plans to meet carbon pollution reduction goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants across the board and encourage the development of cleaner energy sources, including wind, solar, other renewables and nuclear. It is also contrary to the spirit of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement that President Obama supported on behalf of the United States.
Connecticut benefits from nuclear power beyond electricity. Nuclear power is a major economic engine. It produces more than half of the electricity used in Connecticut while creating more than 1,000 very well paying jobs. Millstone Power Station, Connecticut’s only nuclear power plant, employs about 1,100 permanent employees at an average salary of more than $100,000 per year plus benefits. It also employs hundreds of contractors at high wages, a number that spikes to more than 1,000 when it is necessary to refuel one of the two nuclear units at Millstone — about every 18 months.
What’s more, a 2011 study by Chmura Economics and Analytics found that Millstone Power Station brings economic benefits to the state of Connecticut to the tune of $1.2 billion annually. The power station spends approximately $200 million on Connecticut goods and services and maintains a payroll of more than $100 million annually. Nuclear also provides low, stable prices long-term for customers.
As we work to achieve the dual goals of a cleaner environment and greater economic opportunity in the state of Connecticut, nuclear energy must be kept on the forefront. Existing nuclear can and should be a part of Connecticut and the rest of the country’s longer-term energy mix, for its clean air and economic benefits.
Carol Browner, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, is a member of the Leadership Council of Nuclear Matters, a campaign to raise awareness about the need to preserve existing nuclear energy plants. This op-ed was funded by member support for CTNewsJunkie.
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