Greenhouse gas emissions have surged in multiple Northeast states that shuttered nuclear power plants since 2019, Politico reported.
The states — Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania — closed down the zero-emissions nuclear reactors in recent years, even as they announced ambitious pledges to transition away from fossil fuels, according to Politico. Since 2019, carbon dioxide emissions, caused by burning fossil fuels like petroleum, coal and natural gas, have increased 15%, 12% and 3% in New York, New England and Pennsylvania respectively, federal data showed.
“If the goal is that we’re moving to 100% zero-carbon electricity, closing zero-carbon resources doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Melissa Lott, director of research at the Columbia University Center on Global Energy, told Politico. “We’re just digging the hole deeper.”
Electricity production is the second-largest source of emissions nationwide, only trailing the transportation sector, according to the Energy Information Administration. Coal power generation, the dirtiest and highest-emitting form of electricity production, increased for the first time since 2014 in 2021.
In June 2019, the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts permanently closed, citing financial difficulties, World Nuclear News reported. Months later, the Pennsylvania plant Three Mile Island stopped producing electricity in a setback for green transition, Nuclear Energy Institute analyst Matt Wald told NPR at the time.
Finally, in April 2021, the Indian Point reactor located 25 miles outside of New York City permanently shuttered. The plant’s operator, Entergy, had applied for a license renewal more than a decade ago, but the state challenged the application over environmental concerns.
Nuclear power is responsible for 9% of energy consumed in the U.S., making it by far the most relied upon renewable energy source in the country. By comparison, solar and wind power combined generate about 4-5% of the annual power consumed by Americans.
“A critical mass of the environmental community is adopting reducing carbon as the most important issue, and nuclear energy becomes more important than it was before,” Great Plains Institute vice president of electricity and efficiency Doug Scott told Politico.
While several U.S. states and high-consuming countries like Germany have moved away from nuclear power, France has made the power source central to its clean energy plans. On Feb. 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the nation would build up to 14 new nuclear plants over the next few decades.
Nuclear plants produce about 70% of France’s electricity generation, according to the World Nuclear Association.
“What we have to build today is the renaissance of the French nuclear industry because it’s the right moment, because it’s the right thing for our nation, because everything is in place,” Macron said during remarks at a nuclear facility last week.