Throughout its existence, nuclear power has battled concerns over safety and environmental impacts. At the same time, it has provided a valuable source of reliable and stable power as the nation's energy infrastructure undergoes dramatic changes.
A new report underscores the importance of nuclear power and the risks of losing plants in the areas that it serves. "Ensuring Resilient and Efficient PJM Electricity Supply: The Value of Cost-Effective Nuclear Resources in the PJM Power Supply Portfolio” was published in April of this year by the research firm IHS Markit. The report was prepared for the industry coalition, Nuclear Matters.
It notes that the PJM energy market, which services 65 million customers in 13 Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern states and the District of Columbia, receives a portion of its power from 19 nuclear plants. However, “wholesale market distortions” are changing the landscape. Federal and state pricing policies implemented to reduced gas emissions and encourage the growth of renewable power, have put the nuclear industry at a competitive disadvantage. Consequently, five of those 19 plants are scheduled to be retired prematurely by the year 2025.
These closures, IHS argues, will have repercussions for the region. Specifically, the loss of the nuclear plants will result in less resiliency, less consumer net benefit, less affordable electricity, greater variability in production costs, and a reduction in non-carbon-emitting power generation.
According to the report, the best way to avoid these premature closures is to reform pricing policies to create a more level playing field in the electricity market. Alternatively, it states policies should be adopted that provide rewards to the nuclear industry for the many benefits it brings, such as cost-effective and resilient capacity, stable and resilient production costs, flexible operating capabilities, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.