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Making Sure the Lights Stay on in All Kinds of Weather

Without resilient and stable energy sources, there is nothing to stop future extreme weather from adversely impacting the delivery of cost-efficient and clean energy to millions of New Jerseyans

nj needs nuclear

In early January, a massive winter storm caused temperatures in New Jersey to plunge into the single digits for days. As residents cranked up the heat in their homes, demand for electricity soared across the region. The state’s nuclear power plants operated at 99 percent capacity, helping keep the lights and heaters on across the Garden State. Without resilient and stable energy sources, there is nothing to stop future extreme weather conditions from adversely impacting the delivery of cost-efficient and clean energy to millions of customers. Nuclear power remained reliable, warming New Jersey homes at the same cost as any other day of the year.

Similar scenarios have played out time and time again in the 60 years since the United States first began producing nuclear energy. There is no other energy resource that can match nuclear energy’s combination of resilience, reliability, stable pricing, and clean generation.

As we look to a cleaner energy future, nuclear energy’s non-emitting attributes will become increasingly important. Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature are to be commended for their commitment to cleaner energy production and are charting a course that will provide New Jersey one of the cleanest electricity supplies in the nation. To achieve that vision, however, it is vital that state lawmakers properly value New Jersey’s zero-emission nuclear fleet. The New Jersey Legislature is treating this issue with the seriousness it deserves, and is currently considering a broad package of smart-energy policies that will jumpstart New Jersey’s clean-energy future. This proposed legislation credits nuclear energy for its zero-carbon output, advances solar and wind initiatives, supports existing and creates new clean-energy jobs, and develops an energy-efficiency standard to reduce electricity consumption.

Despite its proven reliable, resilient, and clean attributes, the state’s and the nation’s nuclear fleet is at real financial risk. In fact, due to certain market and policy flaws, the loss of nuclear generation across the country has been nothing short of dramatic. In just the past five years, a total of six nuclear reactors have closed down across the country. And since 2016, eight more nuclear reactors have announced retirement plans.

New Jersey and the United States need nuclear power as an essential component of a clean, resilient, stably priced electricity supply. Nuclear accounts for one-fifth of total electric power generation in the United States today. It also provides nearly 60 percent of the nation’s carbon-free electricity, saving over one-half billion tons of carbon emissions per year. The numbers are even more dramatic in New Jersey, where about 40 percent of electricity comes from nuclear, while delivering 90 percent of the state’s carbon-free energy.

Next time we hunker down for a cold snap, I encourage everyone to give more thought to our electricity grid, and how vital it is for New Jersey and the rest of the nation to have clean, reliable, and affordable power. We cannot take it for granted — it is time now to plan ahead and ensure that we are fully valuing the importance of a resilient electric grid.

John Kotek is vice president for policy development and public affairs at the Nuclear Energy Institute. He previously served as acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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