by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
On September 1, JLF’s Dr. Don van der Vaart, former Secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, published a research brief examining the inception of Dem. Gov. Roy Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan (CEP). This week, Dr. van der Vaart wrote part two of his examination – focusing on an important energy source almost entirely missing from Cooper’s plan: nuclear energy. Dr. van der Vaart writes:
Despite the supposed goal of reducing global warming, Cooper’s “Clean Energy Plan” ignores nuclear power, which is one of the few viable means to reduce greenhouse gases significantly in energy generation…
Despite all of the misinformation about nuclear energy, existing nuclear power is the cheapest electricity source out there. The next cheapest sources are hydro, combined cycle natural gas, and coal. All are much cheaper than wind or solar.
Nuclear power has a far smaller footprint than either solar or wind, it is a zero-emissions source, and it can run for more than a year without refueling.
Cooper’s plan does not prioritize this clean energy source, or even make much mention of it at all. Of course, this is not surprising to Dr. van der Vaart. He writes:
The exclusion of nuclear power is no surprise, however, given that the Cooper administration enlisted the help of a longtime opponent of nuclear power to help develop the CEP: Amory Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)…
Under Cooper, the first draft of the CEP did not discuss existing or future nuclear power at all, even though 33% of NC’s electricity still comes from nuclear. Perhaps surprising only to the DEQ, this exclusion of nuclear power generated the largest number of public comments on their draft report of a plan with “Clean Energy” in the name.
To accommodate those concerns without addressing them, DEQ simply included a brief history of nuclear power in NC in the final report — but ended it with a straightforward, categorical rejection of nuclear power:
“Going forward, new generating resources should be identified to replace the NPP’s [nuclear power plants’] existing capacity and generation even if the NRC extends their licenses (as desired by Duke Energy) for an additional twenty years. It is prudent to now begin looking for a nuclear generation replacement so that we can meet NC’s future baseload electric needs.”
Nuclear power is an extremely promising, carbon-neutral method of producing affordable and reliable energy. The categorical disregard of the Cooper administration for this invaluable source of energy is nonsensical. Dr. van der Vaart comments:
The Cooper administration handed NC’s energy policy over to a fringe, anti-humanist faction of the environmentalist movement. If they succeed, we will pay more for our electricity, by design. It turns out the environment will pay for it as well.