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Decision Time for Ohio Nuclear

By Nancy Spannaus

June 24, 2019—Ohio state legislators are currently working against the clock to save the state’s only two nuclear power plants. The plants’ owners, FirstEnergy Solutions, have set a deadline of June 30 in order to decide whether to order more nuclear fuel, or move to close the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants.

Ohio is currently the front line of the battle to preserve the nuclear industry in the United States. Both Congress and the Administration have failed to act to defend nuclear power generation from its less-efficient and highly subsidized alternatives, thus leaving pro-nuclear advocates to fight state-by-state. Several states have risen to the challenge by choosing to add nuclear power to their “zero-emissions” list of energy sources, thus permitting financial subsidies that allow the nuclear companies to continue operation.

Decision Time for Ohio Nuclear

Ohio’s Perry plant, on Lake Erie.

However, in Pennsylvania, the legislature did not act in time to save Three Mile Island. Pro-nuclear groups are reportedly working on coming up with a strategy to restart the fight for Pennsylvania’s Beaver Valley plant in the fall.

The Ohio state legislature passed legislation to subsidize Ohio’s nuclear plants in late May, but the legislation (HB6) included additional measures which endangered its final enactment in the Senate.  Legislators are currently seeking to come up with a compromise, which would perhaps decouple the measure to save the nuclear plants from the broader measures. The pro-nuclear campaign has been intense, and included the release of an extensive report on the considerable contribution which the nuclear industry makes to Ohio’s economy.

Short-sighted

The abandonment of nuclear fission power represents a giant step backward from the American System approach which has characterized the most prosperous periods of American economic history. To substitute wind and solar sources—which can’t operate a large percentage of the time – for nuclear energy plants which operate cleanly, efficiently, and reliably in all weather conditions,  is to reject our historic commitment to improving the productive powers of labor, and mechanical power. That commitment is essential for sustainable prosperity and economic growth. The last President to fully embrace such a perspective was President John F. Kennedy.

Cross-section of NuScale small modular reactor (world nuclear news)

The pro-nuclear lobby can point to some small successes on the horizon, such as the steps being taken toward development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).  Testing on these SMRs has been moving ahead through various approval levels of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  And on June 18, the NRC gave clearance for the possible construction of small reactors by the Tennessee Valley Authority at the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor.

Yet, even without roadblocks being erected, the construction of operable SMRS by such companies as NuScale is years away. Meanwhile, some of the nation’s most valuable assets, in the form of its nuclear reactors, and our nation’s future itself, are being sacrificed in the name of deregulation and irrational fears of nuclear energy.

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