With the FirstEnergy nuke plant bailout bill (House Bill 6) moving through the General Assembly and all the recent praise on these pages for nuclear energy, I think a reality check is in order.
Nuclear power is expensive, dirty and dangerous. It starts with expensive uranium fuel and ends with long-lasting, highly toxic nuclear waste. And when nuclear power goes wrong, nearby towns must be evacuated, as happened with Chernobyl and Fukushima.
However, nuclear power generation is also low-carbon. So, it makes some sense to keep the old, dangerous nuke plants running for now as a part of our overall plan to tame the more certain danger of climate change. But at what price? As reported in the Reflector, H.B. 6 would keep the nuke plants running by having Ohio electricity customers pay into a fund to the tune of $190 million, nearly all of which would be slurped up by FirstEnergy. That is money not going to renewable energy development and advanced clean energy research.
Other parts of H.B. 6, which has passed the Ohio House and gone to the Senate, would take us backwards in taming climate change. H.B. 6 would kill the renewable energy and efficiency standards, which, by most accounts, have helped boost Ohio's 112,000 worker-strong clean energy industry. H.B. 6 would also add more red tape to wind turbine siting, and provide for funding two coal generating plants.
The Green New Deal is a policy framework that tries to match the size of the climate change crisis. It resolves to avoid the worst effects of climate change by achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and creating millions of good jobs doing it.
So I think that, if we must have a bailout, the Ohio Senate should, at the very least, fix H.B. 6 to:
• Audit the bailout fund to make sure it is actually used for necessary nuke plant operations,
• Cut out the support for coal plants and cut all red tape for renewable energy, and
• Boost renewable energy and efficiency standards to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.