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Watershed moment for U.S. nuclear energy as Ohio bill HB 6 signed into law

Perry Nuclear Power Plant / U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Ohio’s Clean Energy Bill HB 6, which eliminated the state’s ongoing bailout of renewable wind and solar resources and approved a zero emission credit for its nuclear plants, was signed into law today.

Considered a “swing state” in both politics and nuclear energy, Ohio is home to two plants. Perry Nuclear Power Plant, 40 miles northeast of Cleveland on Lake Erie, was commissioned a year after California's Diablo Canyon Power Plant in 1986. Without HB 6’s credit, owner First Energy was expected to close the plant in 2021, and had canceled a license renewal application. Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, 25 miles east of Toledo, was commissioned in 1978 and was expected to close as early as May 2020.

But with a strong nuclear culture in Ohio extending back decades, state legislators realized the jobs the plants provided, the tech prestige associated with nuclear energy, and 2.15 billion watts of reliable, clean energy were more valuable than the empty promises of the state's cancelled "Renewable Portfolio Standard" (RPS). First Energy is expected to re-license both plants for additional 20-year terms.

Ohio’s big win today sets the stage for a zero emission credit in California, while focusing attention on the Golden State's gas/renewables combination responsible for reliability problems statewide.

 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 24, 2019 6:48 pm GMT

But with a strong nuclear culture in Ohio extending back decades, state legislators realized the jobs the plants provided, the tech prestige associated with nuclear energy, and 2.15 billion watts of reliable, clean energy 

I'm curious what you mean when you mention the tech prestige, Bob. I understand the benefits of the stable clean energy and the jobs provided (though I think it's important to be careful never to use preserving jobs as a main reason to keep plants alive, or we'll never see the closure of coal mines and plants), but what does the tech prestige bring?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jul 24, 2019 11:40 pm GMT

Matt, tech prestige is a magnet for talent, and nuclear physicists / engineers are among the most highly-trained technicians in the U.S. Nuclear medicine, radiology, criminal forensics, and aerospace are just a few of the applications of nuclear energy and materials sciences which have nothing to do with generating grid electricity.

A former engineer for GE with whom I work started his career designing reactor cores, and now is consulting for DOD and DOE on nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) systems. Recently $100 million was budgeted for NTP research at NASA, probably due to renewed interest in a Mars mission. Another is working at the National Ignition Facility in Berkeley, CA on nuclear fusion research, using the world's most powerful laser. For a brief moment, it consumes twice as much power as the output of all nuke plants in the U.S. combined.

What does that have to do with nuclear power plants? Until recently California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo offered a Nuclear Engineering degree largely because nearby Diablo Canyon Power Plant needed talented nuclear engineers - it was hiring. After PG&E decided to close the plant so many students dropped out the program was discontinued. The economic impact of Diablo Canyon closing in 2024-25 is an estimated $980 million/yr.

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