APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Environmental Progress Illinois

We've seen in recent times the effects of closing nuclear plants before they're due to be closed by licensing or condition issues- more than once.  Kewaunee.  Vermont Yankee.  Already on the list is FitzPatrick in New York.  The effects on the local economies are clear enough, and so is the effect on emissions from the generation of electricity.

Pain from closing Vermont Yankee lingers

Emissions rose after Vermont Yankee closed

Now, Exelon Nuclear has warned (repeatedly) that some of its plants in Illinois are under the threat of closure, primarily due to an economic situation that does two things:

1.  Favors short term profit instead of long term sustainable business.
2.  Favors the popular public "cause du jour", which is renewables.

The two plants named specifically have been Clinton and Quad Cities; Exelon has vascillated over whether to shut one or both, with Clinton (being a single unit) clearly far more at risk if the most recent reports are to be believed.

Michael Shellenberger, who is co-founder and Senior Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute and one of the guiding lights of the Ecomodernist movement (which says very simply that if we are careful about our energy choices we can live the same high energy life we do now, and allow that to spread, without damaging the environment) has founded a group called Environmental Progress.  That group will announce Monday, April 4 a new chapter in Illinois whose first job will be to ensure that none of the nuclear plants in Illinois is shut down.

Shellenberger tells me that the reason to take action in Illinois is pretty clear.  "If just two (Clinton, Quad Cities) of Illinois' six nuclear plants were shut down, they would be replaced by natural gas or coal and pollution would immediately skyrocket," he says.  "Illinois' carbon emissions would increase the equivalent of adding TWO MILLION cars to the roads.  If they were replaced by coal the carbon emissions would almost double."  On the other side, keeping these plants open has a very clear positive effect on the environment - and on the citizens of Illinois.  According to Shellenberger "If they run their full 60 year lives, Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants will prevent between 2,468 and 5,474 deaths from coal."

It's important from a number of points of view to try to stop any and all nuclear plants from being closed while they're still operable if the reasoning behind that closure is a temporary economic situation - so I asked Michael why it's important to really try to draw the line in Illinois.  "Illinois could be a model for the world in including nuclear in the state renewable portfolio standard," he replied, which of course is an issue that has some history behind it in that state.  Further, Illinois is in a great position to champion the cause because of the contribution made already by nuclear which it would be protecting with such legislative action.  "Illinois generates more zero-emission electricity than any other state," Shellenberger remarked.  "Most of it comes from the state's six nuclear plants, which produce about half of Illinois' total energy and 90 percent of its low carbon electricity.  These plants are in their prime and could stay in service many more years and even decades."

Did you catch that?  Nuclear is about half Illinois' power.  It's 90% of its low-GHG power.

Shellenberger will be speaking at a public event in Downtown Chicago on Monday April 4th at 7 PM in the evening.  I would encourage anyone interested in the effort, or interested in attending, to follow this link to the American Nuclear Society's blog where you can read quotes from other participants and find the directions to attend.


For those who just want the details, the Saving Illinois Nukes event is at Medill School, 303 East Wacker, Room 1600.  This is downtown.  The event runs 7 PM to 8:30 PM and will feature three speakers (James Hansen, Michael Shellenberger and Rachel Pritzker) followed by an audience interaction session.

Let's hope this effort gets off on the right foot, to a fast start and has a strong finish.  Illinois deserves it, and so does our air.