Nuclear Matters’ Sen. Judd Gregg Discusses Environmental Value of U.S. Nuclear Plants Before Senate Committee

Washington, D.C. (September 14, 2016) – Former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) told a Senate committee today that shutting down safe, reliable nuclear plants because markets haven’t found a way to compensate their value means that hundreds of people lose good-paying jobs, while local businesses lose customers. Sen. Gregg appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development to discuss the environmental benefits of U.S. nuclear power plants.  The hearing, entitled “The Future of Nuclear Power,” also featured testimony from Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz as well as Jay Faison, Founder and CEO of The ClearPath Foundation.

In his testimony, Senator Gregg highlighted the vital role that our country’s nuclear plants play in providing reliable, carbon-free electricity to tens of millions of households and businesses across the country.  He also noted that, despite these benefits, a combination of factors have caused strong performing nuclear plants to close, while others are in jeopardy.  These factors include low natural gas prices, market conditions that fail to recognize nuclear energy’s value, and selective subsidies that depress electricity prices.

“The reality is that nuclear energy is critical to our ability to meet state and national carbon reduction goals, including those under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP),” said Senator Gregg.  “The goals set out under the CPP are based on an electricity supply that already includes a large contribution from carbon-free nuclear power plants.  If these plants continue shutting down, most of the baseload generation that fills the gap tends to come from fossil-fueled electricity sources, thereby boosting carbon emissions.  That’s exactly what we saw in New England after Vermont Yankee closed in 2014 – after which emissions went up by five percent at a time when we desperately need them to be decreasing.”

Senator Gregg noted that New York State recently adopted a policy that explicitly values all low-carbon generating sources in its effort to meet an ambitious carbon reduction mandate.

“It is essential that policymakers take steps to value the carbon-free attributes of nuclear energy so that we can continue to enjoy the benefits these plants provide and so that we can successfully achieve our clean energy future.  The Clean Energy Standard recently approved in New York is a great example of how to do this, and I hope that policymakers around the country pay close attention.  Furthermore, as Congress considers its policies toward nuclear energy, I encourage members to consider policies that recognize the benefits that nuclear energy provides and support regulations that streamline the regulatory process of permitting and license renewal, while still maintaining rigorous oversight.”

Senator Gregg also noted the robust economic contributions of nuclear energy, including the fact that each year, the average nuclear plant generates approximately $470 million in economic output. This includes more than $40 million in total labor income.  What’s more, each nuclear plant employs 500-700 workers, on average, in high-paying jobs.