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OPED: Nuclear energy has many benefits
By now you’ve probably heard the news. On May 30, it was announced that Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear generation plant will close absent needed policy and regulatory reforms. If TMI closes 675 people with highly specialized skills and training will lose their jobs. But it’s not just our neighbors who currently work at the plant who will be impacted. As a York County Commissioner I know that having TMI nearby has brought enormous benefits to all of us who live and work in central Pennsylvania.
That’s why I, along with other local business, labor, environmental, and elected leaders, have joined the Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania coalition. Our mission is to raise public awareness of the devastating impact TMI’s closure would have on the regional economy and advocate for its continued operation. We must bear in mind the positive economic and environmental impact TMI and the Commonwealth’s four other nuclear plants have on their communities.
TMI provides more than $1 million in state property taxes that fund schools. They donate more than $300,000 to charitable causes in the region each year. Furthermore, TMI alone powers about 800,000 homes with emission free energy that helps keep the air where we live clean. And it’s a very important contributor to ensuring our state’s energy reliability. If not for the baseload energy nuclear power provides, thousands of people might have been out of power during the 2014 polar vortex, when spike in demand placed a strain on the grid that natural gas electric generators alone could not meet.
The forces at work behind TMI’s potential closure have been clear for some time. One, we have depressed natural gas prices. Two, there are policies in place that ensure financial support for 16 other renewable energy sources, but not nuclear, which currently receives no consideration from the state of Pennsylvania. These conditions create the perfect environment for an assault on nuclear plants, not just in our community, but across the nation.
The impact will be felt financially as well. Losing nuclear, which currently generates almost 40 percent of our state’s electricity, will mean fewer sources of energy competing in the market. Without nuclear customers statewide can expect their electricity bills to rise. Nuclear energy currently produces 93 percent of the state’s emission free fuel. If nuclear disappears there will be an additional 37 million tons of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere each year. That’s the equivalent of having 8 million more cars on the road.
Thankfully, it’s not too late to avoid this devastating loss to our community. Illinois and New York have adopted legislation that values nuclear energy for its environmental and economic benefits. In both states it has saved the nuclear facilities that supply many clean energy jobs. It all starts with communities surrounding TMI sounding the alarm and making it known that TMI’s closure would have a disastrous impact on the people who live here.
I am confident that through the Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania coalition we can ensure that the state legislature enacts policies which properly recognize and value nuclear energy. We must preserve the myriad benefits nuclear provides to residents people of Pennsylvania. Join me in standing up for our community at http://www.cleanjobsforpennsylvania.com/.
— Chris Reilly is co-chair of Clean Jobs for Pennsylvania and York County commissioner.