New York Just Proved Why Bailing Out Nuclear Power Is a Bad Idea"> Thumbnail for 821651

New York approved a $7.6-$10 billion subsidy to prop up uncompetitive nuclear power plants–twice as much money as it will take for the state to achieve a goal to generate 50% of its electricity with renewables by 2030.

Yesterday, New York became the first state to adopt a policy to subsidize aging, uncompetitive nuclear reactors. The state’s Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies, passed a Clean Energy Standard that combines a 50% renewable energy standard by 2030 with massive subsidies to prop up uneconomical reactors. (You can download the whole PSC order here.)

Prepare yourself for loud celebrations from the nuclear industry, heaping praise on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and calling for other states to emulate the Empire State with lucrative incentives to insulate the nuclear industry from competition and to postpone closures of uneconomical reactors.

We hate to throw water on the parade, but the move actually proves what a bad idea it is to throw subsidies at nuclear power. Let’s jump to the punch line, then we can fill in the blanks: New York just committed to spending twice as much money propping up old nuclear reactors than on new renewable energy, to get 2-3 times less energy from nuclear as renewables in the end.

Spend more, get less electricity, get more carbon emissions–and get a lot of radioactive waste.

Basically all of the $7.6 billion in nuclear subsidies will leave New Yorkers’ bank accounts and go to companies headquartered in Chicago and Paris: Exelon and Electricite de France, which jointly own the company that will own all of the bailed-out reactors. The money will produce not one more job for unemployed New Yorkers, put not one more solar panel on a roof, provide not one more dollar of economic development. And by soaking up so much of New Yorkers’ energy dollars, the subsidies could prevent them from investing in energy efficiency and renewables.

There is going to be a lot of pain—economic, human, and environmental—for no real gain, and possibly a lot of political blowback for Governor Cuomo in the next election. Power bill hikes will start in May, 2017, as New Yorkers get hit with $480 million per year in surcharges for nuclear power.

Incentive proposals for existing reactors have been debated in Illinois and Ohio since 2014, and cropped up in Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania this year. However, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars a year into supporting aging reactors–most of which are supposed to be in competitive energy markets–has had difficulty gaining traction, resulting in Exelon’s announcement in June that it will close the Clinton and Quad Cities 1 and 2 reactors in Illinois.

Nuclear boosters will argue that New York is setting a precedent for other states to prop up the industry by “valuing” nuclear power’s role in combating climate change. But to those close paying attention, it proves just the opposite: bailing out aging, uneconomical reactors is a massive diversion of time and money needed to invest in renewable energy, …read moreRead More


GreenWorld’s Future:"> Thumbnail for 821439

Dear GreenWorld readers,

As you have probably heard, GreenWorld’s founder, editor, and primary author, Michael Mariotte, passed away in May. That loss been difficult for all those who have known him, whether personally, professionally, or through his inimitable written voice. The blog has taken a needed and appropriate hiatus, as we adjust to life without Michael and think through the editorial plan for GreenWorld. We apologize for the gap in communication–Michael was as devoted to the readers of the blog as many of you have been to following it.

Michael founded GreenWorld out of his love for writing and reporting, which he had wanted to do more of for years. But he also had a mission: to fill an essential and long-standing gap in energy industry news coverage, by providing analysis of the clean energy transition, climate change, and related environmental issues from an informed perspective critical of nuclear power.

That gap still exists, and to an even greater degree without Michael to fill it. There have been major developments in just the last few months since Michael stopped writing, and we have missed sorely the insightful and incisive commentary he would have been able to provide.

So it is in that spirit that NIRS will continue GreenWorld. We will not be posting as frequently at first, and you will hear from a wider range of voices going forward. But we intend to keep up GreenWorld’s mission and uphold the same standards of accuracy and quality that the blog has become known and respected for with Michael at the editorial helm.

Our first post will go up later today, analyzing the Clean Energy Standard adopted in New York yesterday–an issue about which Michael would have been publishing frequently this year.

Please let us know what you think, in comments or by email at nirs@nirs.org.

For a Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free World,

Tim Judson

Executive Director

Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Filed under: …read moreRead More


Aging nuclear power plants in New York uneconomic without bailout"> Thumbnail for 820726

The New York State Public Service Commission—in the face of strong opposition—this week approved a $7.6 billion bail-out of aging nuclear power plants in upstate New York which their owners have said are uneconomic to run without government support.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo—who appoints the members of the PSC—has called for the continued operation of the nuclear plants in order to, he says, save jobs at them. The bail-out would be part of a “Clean Energy Standard” advanced by Cuomo. Under it, 50 percent of electricity used in New York by 2030 would come from “clean and renewable energy sources”—with nuclear power considered clean and renewable.

“Nuclear energy is neither clean nor renewable,” testified Pauline Salotti, vice chair of the Green Party of Suffolk County, Long Island at a recent hearing on the plan.

“Without these subsidies, nuclear plants cannot compete with renewable energy and will close. But under the guise of ‘clean energy,’ the nuclear industry is about to get its hands on our money in order to save its own profits, at the expense of public health and safety,” declared a statement by Jessica Azulay, program director of Alliance for a Green Economy, based in upstate Syracuse with a chapter in New York City. Moreover, she emphasized, “Every dollar spent on nuclear subsidies is a dollar out of the pocket of New York’s electricity consumers—residents, businesses and municipalities” that should “instead” go towards backing “energy efficiency, renewable energy and a transition to a clean energy economy.”

The “Clean Energy Standard” earmarks twice as much money for the nuclear power subsidy than it does for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Its claim is that nuclear power is comparable because nuclear plants don’t emit carbon or greenhouse gasses—the key nuclear industry argument for nuclear plants nationally and worldwide these days because of climate change. What the industry does not mention, however, is that the “nuclear cycle” or “nuclear chain”—the full nuclear system—is a major contributor to carbon emissions. Numerous statements sent to the New York PSC on the plan pointed to this.

“Nuclear is NOT emission-free!” Manna Jo Greene, environmental director of the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, wrote the PSC. The claim of nuclear power having ‘zero-emission attributes’ ignores emissions generated in mining, milling, enriching, transporting and storing nuclear fuel.” Further, “New York no longer needs nuclear power in its energy portfolio, now or in the future. Ten years ago the transition to a renewable energy economy was still a future possibility. Today it is well underway.”

“Nuclear power is not carbon-free,” wrote Michel Lee, head of the Council on Intelligent Energy & Conservation Policy based in Scarsdale. “If one stage,” reactors operation itself, “produces minimal carbon…every other stage produces prodigious amounts.” Thus the nuclear “industry is a big climate change polluter…Nuclear power is actually a chain of highly energy-intensive industrial processes which—combined—consume large amounts of fossil fuels and generate potent warming gasses. These include: uranium mining, milling enrichment, fuel fabrication, transport” and her list …read moreRead More


“Consent based siting” is the process proposed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to locate radioactive waste dump sites around the US. Fairewinds Energy Education believes that such a process is biased against communities struggling financially due to factory closings and the global economy. Choosing an atomic waste dump is tempting to towns and villages so anxious to increase short term income and economic survival that they are willing to sacrifice long-term environmental damage in return for that income.

At its heart, the consent based process is an environmental justice violation as well as a DOE method to avoid finding an appropriate scientifically viable site to dump by foisting it on impoverished citizens who will not mount a protest.

Nuclear waste remains toxic for tens of thousands of years. The consent based siting proposed by the DOE lures currently underemployed citizens to commit their hometown community for hundreds of future generations of potential genetic damage in return for a short term income gain to a few individuals, who own that land.

While atomic power reactors have left all of us with mountains of radioactive garbage that will need monitoring and special handling for hundreds, and even thousands, of years, instead the DOE must find the best waste dump location, and not just stick the waste where the fewest individuals will launch protest actions. When Litchfield County Connecticut and Orange County California have an equal chance at being chosen to be the site of a nuclear waste dump as environmentally sensitive low income counties in Texas or Native American reservations in the west, the DOE will have succeeded in optimizing its search for a waste disposal site. The current Consent Based Siting process violates the basic tenants of environmental justice.

…read moreRead More