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New Jersey’s Nuclear Imperative

The best path would be to develop an economic model that encourages a diverse set of energy sources while recognizing the environmental benefits of retaining the state’s nuclear plants.

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What if New Jersey’s nuclear plants -- which produce nearly 50 percent of the state’s electricity and 97 percent of its carbon-free energy -- were to close? The result would be more pollution, higher bills, and thousands of jobs lost.

Since 2013, 10 U.S. nuclear plants have shut down or announced plans to close because of financial pressures. The pressures come in three forms: First, significantly lower electric prices due to historically low natural gas prices. Second, higher compliance costs to satisfy stricter federal regulations. Third, subsidies for solar- and wind-energy providers to encourage the development of carbon-free electricity resources, while ignoring that nuclear plants are the nation’s largest source of zero-carbon energy.

PSEG’s three nuclear plants at Salem and Hope Creek are in no immediate danger of closing. However, New Jersey will be at risk if we don’t enact public policy to address the economic trends affecting nuclear generators across the United States.

We have issued a new position paper that discusses the financial challenges facing New Jersey’s nuclear plants and the potential consequences. Those ramifications include:

  • Carbon emissions and air pollution would increase. Nuclear plants would mostly likely be replaced by natural-gas units that emit more greenhouse gases and other pollutants;

  • Customers would pay more, as families and businesses would have to cover the costs of replacing the state’s existing nuclear fleet with new natural-gas or solar generating systems; and

  • Economic losses, particularly in South Jersey, where PSEG’s three nuclear plants employ more than 1,800 people and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in business and taxes.

In 2012, the San Onofre nuclear plant in California closed. That led to customers paying $350 million in higher electricity bills and added 9 million metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere, in only the first year, according to a University of California economic analysis.

Our position paper recommends developing an economic model that encourages a diverse set of energy sources -- solar, nuclear, natural gas and wind -- while recognizing the environmental benefits of retaining the state’s existing nuclear plants.

The worst choice would be to do nothing. We must only look around the country, as plant after plant shuts down for want of financial support, to see where that would lead.

For more information, read our position paper, Nuclear’s Role in New Jersey’s Clean Energy Future.

Ralph Izzo is the chairman, president, and CEO of PSEG.

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