While Missouri River water defenders expand resistance at the Dakota Access Pipeline to unfettered natural gas development, there is more good news downriver with the permanent closure of the Fort Calhoun nuclear power station in Blair, Nebraska. The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) powered down its small 479-megawatt reactor for the last time on October 24, 2016 ending 43 years of electricity generation and nuclear waste production.
OPPD made the closure decision in May 2016 after admitting that Ft. Calhoun was simply too expensive to operate and maintain. Overall, nuclear power technology has become as economically unsustainable as the notion of burning antiques in a woodstove. More reactors are closing.
Proponents of nuclear power argue that shutting down reactors just means burning more dirty fossil fuels, predominantly climate changers like coal and natural gas. However, the emerging trend shows that new electricity capacity is coming increasingly from solar and wind power. In 2015, a record breaking installation of new solar power capacity surpassed new natural gas capacity in the US. According the U.S. Energy Information Agency, new photovoltaics installations for 2016 represents a 94% increase over that previous record. What would have been thought “unthinkable” only five years ago, the Financial Times now reports that renewable energy capacity globally is outpacing coal. Renewable energy is not only transitioning the globally energy market to solar and wind power but it is also transforming a centralized electricity generation to distributed generation from solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses and deployed on sun-tracking farms.
The closure of Ft. Calhoun and the shift to renewable energy is good for the planet, the economy and environmental justice.