The nuclear age appears to be ending. Natural gas plants and wind farms now produce electricity more cheaply than reactors. A couple of states have provided financial aid to nuclear plants and the federal government is trying to bail out aging nuclear (as well as coal) plants. A proposed nuclear bailout has made little progress in the Ohio General Assembly.
There are several concerns when a reactor closes. The jurisdiction of reactor site typically loses a large portion of its tax base and considerable economic activity. Of wider concern are increases in greenhouse-gas generation and loss of jobs.
The strongest argument for nuclear energy is that it does not produce greenhouse gasses. As shown in the Appendix, replacing Ohio’s nuclear plants with natural gas will raise our greenhouse gas production by about nine percent. Of course there would be no net increas if nuclear were to be replaced by wind and solar.
There is concern that the nuclear-plant workers will not find new jobs. Data in the appendix shows that this may bre a problem because of new gas plants coming on line.
Problems with Coal
There also data in the Appendix for coal. They show that coal is a poor substitute for natural gas based green house gas generation. However coal is more labor intensive. Replacing nu8clea with coal will provide a considerable number of jobs.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Table A-1 shows the amount of greenhouse gas produced by various fuels. As is well known, nuclear produces none. So replacing it will increase production. In 2016 (latest data), nuclear produced 16.8 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity (1). If this amount were to be generated using natural gas, 7.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas would be produced (2). This is about nine percent of Ohio’s annual CO2 production.
Table A-1 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Million Metric Tons
CO2 per MWh
Table A-2 shows the labor intensity for various fuels. It appears that natural gas and nuclear require about the same amount of staffing. This raises the possibility that kany, if not all, nuclear employees could get jobs in the gas plants replacing nuclear.
Table A-2 – Ohio Electricity Generation – Worker Production
(1) Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser, accessed 29 May 2018
(2) Energy Information Administration. Emissions.Annual
(3) Energy.gov, Ohio Energy and Employment, 2017
(4) The Brattle Group, Ohio Nuclear Power Plants’ Contribution to the State Economy, April 2017