Indian Point’s Shutdown Shouldn't Be Celebrated
On Friday, August 30th, the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York state shut down.
In a state that has pledged to obtain 70% of it’s power from renewables, you’d imagine that the loss of over ten percent of the state’s power, and 81% of the clean energy in the downstate, would be mourned. You’d imagine that the imminent opening of more natural gas plants, and more fossil fuel emissions pouring into the atmosphere—just as what happened the last time New York closed a nuclear plant—would be seen as a great shame, exacerbating the impact of climate change. You’d imagine that the loss of thousands of good jobs would be seen as a mistake.
Instead, liberals celebrated it.
The Natural Resources Defense Council—who pride themselves as “Earth’s Best Defense”—published a piece celebrating the closure of the plant. Riverkeeper, another environmentalist group, did the same, making it the centerpiece of one of their campaigns. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, someone who clearly, regardless of what you think about her policies, cares for the environment, was in favor of the shutdown as well.
Let’s be clear. Shutting down Indian Point wipes out more zero-emissions energy then is produced each year by every solar
panel and wind turbine. Combined. And this was celebrated by those who purportedly want more clean energy.
Listen. I get it. Nuclear power seems scary. We’ve been conditioned for a very long time to think about Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three Mile Island when we hear the word nuclear. Between liberal environmental activists and HBO, we’re taught to jump to those tragedies, and not the thousands and thousands of gigawatts of safe, clean, power in France, Germany, the United States, and elsewhere. Having a nuclear power plant just twenty-odd miles from New York City seems scary, and maybe it is.
But shutting down Indian Point isn’t the answer.
We’re already approaching the end of this atomic era. The average age of the American nuclear reactor is almost forty years old, and only a single reactor–Watts Bar 2, part of the Tennessee Valley Authority–has been built since 1996. This isn’t from a lack of desire. People clearly want clean, zero-emissions energy. Rather, the regulatory burden placed upon new nuclear reactor construction, both at the state and federal levels, make new nuclear reactor construction nigh-impossible.
Nuclear energy, just like every other form of science, is always advancing. The United States, however, due to regulatory restrictions, refuses to adopt new scientific advancements—or, for that matter, older ones. Nations like France recycle and reuse their nuclear waste. The United States takes its nuclear waste and sticks it in a hole. It took American regulatory authorities almost five years to approve a small modular reactors project, a program that nearly collapsed last year, after the regulatory process drove up the cost.
Without significant reforms to the regulatory process, nuclear power in the United States will vanish, for good–and the liberal environmental activists cheering its death will only be helping the climate catastrophe they so fear.