Brad Plumer explains why recent nuclear power plant closings should alarm environmentalists:
So what happens when a nuclear power plant gets retired? It depends on the region. But one recent study of a shuttered nuclear plant in California found that greenhouse-gas emissions surged, as the nuclear plant got replaced by fossil fuels.
Back in February 2012, Southern California Edison shut off two nuclear reactors at the San Onofre plant after finding cracks in the steam generator system. (A year later, the company announced that it would retire the reactors for good, deciding it the repair and licensing process would take too long and involve too many lawsuits.)
That plant was massive, providing about 8 percent of California’s electricity. So the state went on a frenzy of construction, building mostly new natural gas units and some wind units. In the end, however, fossil fuels were the easiest to deploy. Overall carbon-dioxide emissions in the region rose by 9.2 million tons in the following year — equivalent to putting an extra 2 million cars on the road.
And look at the result of Germany’s decision to revoke nuclear: they’re not just hurting the planet but also enabling Putin. Sigh. To my mind, nuclear is an imperfect but real solution to disentangling ourselves from the Middle East and saving the planet. And yet the liberal coalition that should support it is AWOL – a victim largely of ideology.