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Thursday
Jun052014

EPA C02 proposed rule throws lifeline to nation’s sinking nukes

 On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out for comment the Obama Administration’s proposed rule on curbing carbon pollution emissions guidelines for the nation’s energy policy. In keeping with President Obama’s “all of the above” energy mix strategy for the climate crisis, the EPA avoids the imposition of regulations for carbon cuts and avoidance that would dearly cost the nation’s operators of 1,900 existing electricity generating plants, particularly those 600-plus coal burners. Instead, the EPA tags each state to effect a carbon and green house gas emissions reduction mandate based on power generation, efficiency and conservation. In particular, EPA gives the nuclear power industry a wink and nod to gin up their state house lobby machines; like Illinois and Ohio where established renewable energy portfolios are already legislatively targeted for gutting and replacement with a “clean” nuclear energy standard.

With the nationwide target for a 30% reduction in carbon pollution by 2030 from a 2005 base level, the states and electric power companies are being given proposed guidelines for tailoring individual state-by-state compliance levels. Some states will have to cut current emissions by more than 30%, while other states are already half way to their 2030 goal. Nevertheless, under the proposed guidelines, coal and natural gas would remain the nation’s overall leading future generators at roughly 30% each. States could meet target levels by shuttering their coal plants or running them less frequently while bringing online renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.  States can incentivize industry, businesses and homeowners to reduce their electricity demands and improve efficiency.

The proposed guidelines further provide for Increasing the amount of nuclear capacity relative to the amount that would otherwise be available to operate is therefore a technically viable approach to support reducing CO2 emissions from affected fossil fuel-fired Electric Generating Units.” However, the EPA admits that it is next to impossible for states to reliably project new reactor costs or completion dates, if ever, so that states might reliably meet carbon reduction goals and deadlines.  Additionally, EPA provides that states can figure out how to keep the existing aging, financially strapped and economically non-viable nuclear power plants operating. This includes an electric utility swapping with itself for carbon emission credits for coal plants and its nuclear power plants’ radioactive emissions and nuclear waste. But let’s be clear, no nuke is carbon free at “zero emissions” as the EPA rule spins. In fact and by studies, the nuclear fuel chain is significantly linked to carbon and green house gas emissions from uranium mining to interminably long-term nuclear waste management unlike renewable wind and solar power.

Bottom line, the EPA needs to hear from the people what experts like Amory Lovins consistently recognize; efficiency and renewables are far cheaper, they are scaling up faster, offer better service and more reliability for effective and secure climate protection. However, the proposed rule sets the stage for the nuclear industry giants like Chicago-based Exelon Corporation to attack their market based energy competitiors by dismantling federal and state policies to accelerate the deployment of clean renewable energy. Rather than perpetuate policies that throw life preservers to risky sinking nukes as EPA recommends, Lovins points out, "like an old car, some reactors are no longer worth fixing, or fixing them is too risky a bet that nothing else expensive will break for a long time."

Tell EPA: Nukes don't save the climate. Email  > A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov < and include docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in your title.