By Michael Mariotte

Thousands joined the nuclear-free, carbon-free contingent at last September’s People’s Climate March in New York City. The unexpectedly large turnout–followed by tens of thousands of comments and petitions to the EPA–helped open the agency’s eyes to first understand our position and then realize it made a lot of sense.

Yesterday, an amazing thing happened. Yes, President Obama released the first real climate action policy in the U.S. ever. But that’s not all. The incredible thing—the one that will be most important in the years to come—is … they got it basically right.

Including on nuclear power. President Obama just made it the policy of the United States that nuclear power is not a viable climate solution. And not just that, but renewable energy can replace nuclear power just like it can replace fossil fuels.

This is a game-changer, both for reducing carbon emissions in the US, and for discrediting the deceptive Nuclear Matters bailout campaign. What is more, going into December’s global climate treaty negotiations in Paris, the U.S. government just declared that we are moving forward, and we are going to do it with renewables, not nuclear.

The upshot is that the EPA appears to have done a total 180 on nuclear in the Clean Power Plan (CPP), and their rationales reflect the concerns raised by the public in the streets of New York City, in tens of thousands of comments, letters, and petitions (THANK YOU!!), and by NIRS and other clean energy groups in conversations and a key meeting with EPA officials who, some might say unexpectedly but we’ll say with our real appreciation, listened and ultimately agreed with our position. After all, with all due modesty, it was a pretty reasoned and well thought-out approach to the climate issue.

Here is a quick synopsis of what the rule actually does with respect to nuclear power:

1. Not only are nuclear reactors under construction not counted on in setting emissions goals, but neither are existing nuclear plants. By the same token, relicensing nuclear reactors won’t count either.
2. Just as significantly, EPA recognized that there is no need to “preserve” nuclear reactors that are “at risk” of closure, because they can be replaced with renewables just as fossil fuels can.
3. EPA will only allow actual, new/increased nuclear generation to count toward complying with the emissions goals. That means, states can only count new reactors that actually operate before 2030 (the five in construction or any others) and power uprates of existing reactors toward meeting their emissions goals.
4. That means there is no incentive under the CPP to keep uneconomical reactors operating and no incentive to complete building new reactors. States can meet their goal with new nuclear (but not with existing nuclear), but they are given no justification for preferring nuclear over renewables. In fact, there are several statements in the rule that indicate just the opposite.
5. And only those new/additional amounts of nuclear can qualify to sell emissions offset credits in cap-and-trade programs. Existing reactors cannot qualify as emissions offsets for …read more

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