An analysis released on October 22 shows that if the FitzPatrick nuclear reactor in New York is shut down, the plant's entire output could be replaced with energy efficiency retrofits and wind power for less money, leaving extra funds free to lower electricity rates or develop even more renewables to replace fossil fuels.1
The analysis is timely: Entergy announced on November 2 that the loss-making reactor will be shut down in late 2016 or early 2017.2
The key findings of the White Paper, co-authored by Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) and the Nuclear Information & Resources Service (NIRS), include:
- FitzPatrick's electricity generation could be replaced with energy efficiency and wind at less than the current cost of electricity from the nuclear plant.
- Diverting all of FitzPatrick's revenue to clean energy could result in additional reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to a 264 MW coal plant or 330 MW combined cycle natural gas plant.
- Replacing FitzPatrick with efficiency and wind could create more than twice the number of jobs (1400) currently provided by Entergy at FitzPatrick (600).
- Municipalities and workers affected by FitzPatrick's closure could be supported through the economic transition for a lower cost than subsidizing FitzPatrick, if the state proactively negotiates with Entergy for a responsible and immediate decommissioning.
NIRS Executive Director Tim Judson said: "Aging reactors like FitzPatrick are becoming uneconomical and uncompetitive, even as they are becoming less safe and reliable. Raising costs on electricity customers to keep FitzPatrick from closing would be enormously expensive, and could cause negative economic impacts throughout the region. Our analysis shows FitzPatrick can be replaced with renewable energy and efficiency, at a lower cost than current electricity prices, without subsidies. And it doesn't need to stop there. More fossil fuel and nuclear power plants could be replaced the same way. New York has an enormous opportunity to become a leader in the clean energy economy, build new industries, and create employment both in Oswego and throughout the upstate region."
Local elected officials and supporters of FitzPatrick have been rallying to try to save FitzPatrick. In letters to the Governor and to the Public Service Commission, they are calling for a subsidy like the one proposed for the Ginna reactor in neighboring Wayne County (which is currently estimated at about US$70 million a year), or a change to market rules to favor nuclear power over other energy sources. Either way, consumers would likely foot the bill if the state were to decide to subsidize the reactor. AGREE and NIRS conservatively predict that subsidy could cost National Grid customers at least US$40 million a year, totaling at least US$760 million if FitzPatrick operated that way until 2034, when its operating license expires.
A petition to shut FitzPatrick, pursue renewables, and provide for a just transition for workers and local communities has been launched by AGREE and can be found at www.beyondFitzPatrick.org.
Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts
On October 13, Entergy announced that the Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts − which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had downgraded to one of the worst performing reactors in the country − will close in or before 2019.
Michael Mariotte from NIRS wrote on the safeenergy.org blog:3
"A generation or so ago, New England was one of the most nuclear-dependent regions in the nation. If one defines New England as including New York, then that relatively small corner of the U.S. map was home to 15 commercial nuclear reactors 25 years ago − only the state of Illinois had a more concentrated nuclear presence; regionally, no other area is even close to that concentration on a square-mile basis.
"Today, New England is leading the nation away from nuclear power, and toward the energy efficient, renewables-powered system of the 21st century. The news from Entergy that it will close its Pilgrim reactor by mid-2019 – and probably a whole lot sooner – is just the latest manifestation of that process, and it's a process that is accelerating.
"It is probably not a coincidence that for the past 25 years, New England has been home to the most active anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. The shutdowns started with Yankee Rowe in 1992, which wanted to become the first reactor in the U.S. to receive a 20-year license extension and instead closed for good when Citizens Awareness Network proved it was too unsafe to operate. Then came Millstone-1, followed by Connecticut Yankee and Maine Yankee in 1996. Last year, it was Vermont Yankee that ended operations.
"In Pilgrim's case, Entergy admits it is losing US$10−40 million (and think the higher figure) per year just trying to run that obsolete Fukushima-clone reactor. And actually trying to bring Pilgrim up to basic Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety standards, which it does not meet − the NRC has rated Pilgrim and two other Entergy reactors in Arkansas as the worst in the nation − would cost many millions more. So for Entergy, the decision was easy: cut its losses now, and avoid spending money to make the safety improvements."
1. AGREE and NIRS, 22 Oct 2015, 'Replacing FitzPatrick: How the Closure of a Nuclear Reactor can Reduce Greenhouse Gasses and Radioactive Waste, while Creating Jobs and Supporting the Local Community', www.nirs.org/neconomics/replacingthefitzpatricknuclearreactor.pdf
3. Michael Mariotte, 13 Oct 2015, http://safeenergy.org/2015/10/13/pilgrims-closure-and-whats-next-for-new...