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Fed judge dismisses law suit challenging IL nuke bailout

A Federal judge has thrown out a challenge to the State of Illinois’ legislated bailout of its uneconomical nuclear power plants. The court decision has implications for legal challenges still underway in New York and anticipated in other states where legislatures are looking to subsidize the financially failing nuclear power industry to keep more reactors from closing.

The state legislation establishing “Zero Emissions Credits” (ZEC) was passed in Illinois in 2016 to keep Exelon from closing the Quad Cities 1 & 2 and Clinton nuclear power stations. Beyond Nuclear is involved in a joint law suit in New York State to undo a similarly legislated bailout of the Fitzpatrick, Nine Mile Point 1 & 2 and Ginna nuclear power stations.

The industry lobby was able to convince enough IL and NY state legislators that costly and non-competitive nuclear power is a “zero” greenhouse gas emitter worthy of subsidization and guaranteed power contracts backed by indentured consumers. Now nuke lobbyists are hard at work in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey and soon everywhere roughly half the nation’s exorbitantly expensive and aging nuclear power plants are economically failing.  

The fact is atomic power is not a “zero” carbon emissions generator. Long-lived nuclear waste and routine radioactive releases aside, yes it is true that nuclear power plants emit less carbon dioxide than a coal fired electricity generation. It is also true that greenhouse gas emissions is even more significantly be reduced by safer and less expensive renewable energy generators like wind and solar power. The studies show that 15% to 25% of nuclear power’s carbon emissions come from construction, maintenance and decommissioning of atomic power plants. The bulk of nuclear power's still significant emissions (an average of 65 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour) come from the uranium fuel chain (mining, milling, enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, and carbon-14 emissions from operations and long-term nuclear waste management). As finite resources of high-grade uranium ore are depleted, those carbon emissions increase. Wind turbines can now generate electricity at 3 to 8 gCO2/kwh due to the wind itself, as the Sun, truly being carbon free.

The real zero emissions come from the “negawatt” resources of efficiency and conservation.  As a society, we are not maximizing their availability and rapid deployment to more dramatically bring down emissions. The U.S. is awash in excess electricity and the waste of electricity is encouraged.  That said, even as society has only begun to scratch the surface of efficiency and conservation, it is why electricity demand has leveled off and begun to fall. Beyond Nuclear supports prioritizing subsidizes for making better use of electricity while using less. It is crazy that ratepayers and taxpayers are being bilked by the nuclear industry to pay for more dangerous excess and wasted energy.