People concerned about global warming have a new challenge on their hands as anti-nuclear activists shut down nuclear power plants throughout the country. America’s 60 nuclear power plants provide 20 percent of the nation’s electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases. Prematurely closing these zero-emission power sources will almost certainly cause a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
Many anti-nuclear activists are also global warming activists. Very few anti-nuclear activists challenge the assertion that humans are creating an imminent global warming crisis. If zero-emission nuclear power plants are prematurely closed down, however, what power sources will fill the gap?
The most cost-effective source for new power generation tends to be natural gas. Natural gas is cost-competitive with coal power while emitting much less pollution. Natural gas reduces important pollutants tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by at least 80 percent compared to coal power. Natural gas also emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal, and new technological advances promise to reduce that number still further. Even so, half as much carbon dioxide as coal is still more carbon dioxide than nuclear power’s zero emissions.
Many global warming activists hope wind and solar will replace prematurely closed nuclear power plants. Nevertheless, shutting down nuclear power plants will likely cause carbon dioxide-emitting power sources to replace zero-carbon nuclear power.
The Chattanoogan last week published an article summarizing recent Senate testimony on the topic. Interestingly, witnesses warning about the consequences of prematurely closing nuclear power plants included liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. Preserving nuclear power sounds like a common-ground energy and climate policy regardless of one’s views on global warming.