Policies on nuclear plant are failing the environment

3 June 2016

Exelon have recently announced that they plan to close early their Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants due to a lack of progress on energy legislation reform. Well-performing generation plant such as these provide valuable jobs, secure electricity supplies and help meet our clean air environmental objectives. It is vital that energy policy reforms are enacted to prevent further closures, not only in the US, but worldwide.

The International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2016 report stated that more support is needed for the existing nuclear fleet to prevent early closures. Reactors operating today are playing a vital role in avoiding greenhouse gas emissions today and helping to reach our long term environmental goals to limit climate change.

In their lifetimes Quad Cities and Clinton have generated in total more than 650 TWh of electricity. Each year they supply around 24 TWh, enough to meet the needs of 1.7 million U.S. citizens. They also provide thousands of jobs to their communities. Early retirement could raise carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 million tonnes a year, equivalent to more than 4 million cars on the road.

A state report concluded that the closure of these reactors would increase wholesale energy costs for the region $439 million to $645 million annually. That report also said keeping the plants operating would avoid $10 billion in economic damages associated with higher carbon emissions over ten years.

Agneta Rising, World Nuclear Association Director General said, “These plants  have performed excellently, particularly in recent years. The problem in Illinois and in some countries is that electricity markets and environmental policies are failing to value the low-carbon and reliable electricity that nuclear power plants supply.”

Environmental and energy market policies are constraining nuclear energy in a number of countries. In Sweden a nuclear capacity tax has been ratcheted up to a level equivalent to more than double the staff costs or more than a third of the operating costs of the plant. As a direct result reactors at the Oskarshamn and Ringhals sites face closure. In France current energy policy arbitrarily decrees that the share of nuclear energy in the generation mix should eventually fall to 50%. These decisions jeopardise the achievements both these countries have made in decarbonising their electricity supplies with a combination of nuclear energy, hydro and other renewables.

Agneta Rising said, “In countries around the world a muddle of subsidies, taxes and short-term strategies are failing to provide a level playing field in which all low carbon generation can work together efficiently. This is bad for the economy, bad for jobs and bad for the environment.”




The World Nuclear Association is the industry organisation that represents the global nuclear industry. Its mission is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international influencers by producing authoritative information, developing common industry positions, and contributing to the energy debate, as well as to pave the way for expanding nuclear business.

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