Economic Study Chronicles San Onofre Closing

If the positive impact of nuclear power were not obvious enough, perhaps the negative consequences of closing a nuclear power plant will wake up the public to the role of nuclear power in the country's energy mix.

San Onofre NPPThat's the message behind a couple of news reports this week that cite a new study by economists Lucas Davis from the University of California, Berkeley, and Catherine Hausman of the University of Michigan, that chronicles the repercussions of the closing of the two operating reactors of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California.

The study found that in the year following the San Onofre closing, electricity generation costs rose by $350 million and that carbon dioxide emissions rose by 9 million tons, which is the equivalent of putting 2 million more cars on the road, wrote University of Michigan economics professor Mark J. Perry in a story that appeared in The Detroit News and the American Enterprise Institute, where Perry is affiliated.

What's more, during that year, based on a rate of $35 per ton of carbon, the study determined that the increased cost of carbon releases due largely to the need for natural gas totaled $316 million.” Perry wrote.

These calculations, which have reached a total of $666 million thus far, do not take into account the increased health risks associated with the increased burning of fossil fuels. However, there are tangible repercussions that are also on the table in terms of economic impact. Each reactor, Perry notes, “employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy.” He goes on to note that the four reactors in Michigan, Cook 1 and 2, Palisades and Fermi 2, account for about 3,000 jobs in the state.

William Miller, a professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at the University of Missouri Research Reactor, also reacted to the study. “Not only in California, but also the (impact of) possible premature retirement of nuclear plants in Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” he wrote, “are far greater and even more troubling than the current slow growth of new nuclear plant construction.”

Miller wrote that without nuclear power, the goal of reducing carbon emissions would be “impossible.”

Coal and natural gas “load the atmosphere with enormous quantities of greenhouse gases,” Miller wrote, pointing out that alternative power sources – wind and solar – are no match for nuclear power simply because of size comparison. Nuclear power constitutes 19 percent of the U.S. energy mix, while wind power in California, a state that is considered very proactive regarding energy policy, in the year San Onofre closed, made up 5.2 percent with solar accounting for 1.5 percent, he wrote. Natural gas comprised 46 percent of the state's generation capacity that year.

The prospect of jettisoning nuclear power should be an embarrassment to the environmental community. The 10 largest environmental groups oppose its use, despite the fact that nuclear power provides significant energy and environmental benefits to tens of millions of Americans,” Miller wrote.

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  • Anonymous

    The closure of SONGS had no significant effect on the local economy.   The southern Orange County and northern San Diego County regions might have had a slight dip in their economies,but  this region is so diverse in wealth that any impact was very likely not noticed.