By Michael Mariotte

Exelon’s aging, unprofitable Quad Cities reactors.

Earlier this month, we reported that climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and the pro-nuclear Breakthrough Institute’s Michael Shellenberger had leaped–apparently on their own–into the battle over the future of some of Exelon’s unprofitable nuclear reactors in Illinois.

In a nutshell, Exelon wants a taxpayer and/or ratepayer (it doesn’t really care where the money comes from) bailout to ensure that Exelon will receive a profit, whether the reactors themselves are profitable or not. They aren’t, and a Clinton reactor official (the most endangered of Exelon’s fleet) said this week that even with a bailout Clinton wouldn’t be profitable for “five to seven years.”

Since Clinton’s competition, primarily wind and natural gas at present, already is profitable, the only argument Exelon has been able to make is that closing Clinton (and two units at Quad Cities) would cause carbon emissions in the state to rise. That’s where Hansen and Shellenberger, and Shellenberger’s new group Environmental Progress Illinois (EPI), jumped in. Not that it’s easy to make the case that the fate of the planet depends on whether three aging, uneconomic, and dirty in many other ways reactors operate long enough to keep Exelon’s wallets full for another few years….

Nonetheless, EPI sent a letter to state legislators trying to make its case. Our friends at Chicago’s Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) thought that letter missed a few points, so sent their own version of it to the legislature, reproduced here.
Microsoft Word - ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS LETTER TO IL LEGISLATUREState legislators rarely are energy experts. The nuclear industry and electric utilities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years in efforts to both convince legislators that climate action isn’t necessary in the first place, but that if it is, then nuclear power is clean, “emissions-free” energy. Advocates of genuinely clean energy don’t, of course, have those kinds of resources. But it costs nothing to reach this very targeted audience with a message that both exposes the lies of the nuclear industry and the illusion that nuclear is clean energy and makes the case for renewables, efficiency, and a 21st century electric system.

Go ahead, try this at home! Take on your own local nuclear advocates and turn their own words against them. It’s fun and you may be surprised: perhaps you’ll even begin to force these powerful, non-expert legislators to raise questions and face the notion that someone has been misleading them–and it isn’t us.

Michael Mariotte

April 25, 2016


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