Closure of FirstEnergy plants, Three Mile Island, would reverse emissions benefits gained over the last 25 years

The announced closure of four nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania will have severe environmental and economic impacts, according to a new report released today by The Brattle Group.

Specifically, these closures would likely result in an increase of over twenty million metric tons of CO2 emissions, tens of thousands of tons of incremental air pollutants, and significantly higher electricity costs to consumers. It would also put hundreds of millions in GDP and thousands of jobs at risk for residents across Ohio, Pennsylvania and the broader region.

“As this report makes clear, policymakers should take note of the critical environmental and economic contributions of our nation’s nuclear plants, especially where their continued operation is threatened,” noted Brattle principals and study authors Dean Murphy and Mark Berkman.

“Any discussion of Pennsylvania’s and Ohio’s energy futures must recognize the significant environmental and economic risks associated with allowing these four plants to close. The impending closures indicate a significant concession in their clean energy commitments.”

The report, based on prior studies of the impacts of nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, estimates that the combined impact of closing the Beaver Valley Power Station (PA), Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station (OH), Perry Nuclear Generating Station (OH) and Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (PA) will include:

  • Increase annual CO2 emissions by over 20 million metric tons, equivalent to 4.5 million cars on the roads and potential social costs of over $900 million per year;
  • Increase annual emissions of harmful air pollutants such as SO2, NOX and particulate matter by tens of thousands of tons, with potential social costs of $170 million per year;
  • Increase annual electricity costs by as much as $400 million annually for Ohio residents and $285 million for Pennsylvanians;
  • Put more than 3,000 direct jobs at risk, as well as thousands of additional secondary jobs;
  • Eliminate tens of millions of dollars in local tax revenues.

The increase in CO2 and several harmful air pollutants due to these closures will be a major setback to the region’s efforts to reduce emissions. In 2017, these four nuclear plants provided one and a half times as much zero-emission energy as the wind and solar resources across the entire PJM region.

“Thousands of lost jobs, major hits to local tax revenues, higher electricity costs for consumers, and more harmful pollutants – any lawmaker should take steps to avoid such a situation,” said Nuclear Matters Advocacy Council Member and former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).

PJM is the largest electricity market in North America, covering all or part of 13 states including Ohio and Pennsylvania, and spanning from Illinois to New Jersey and Virginia.

The loss of these plants would quickly reverse the environmental benefits of all the PJM wind and solar resources developed in the region over the past 25 years – benefits which were supported with billions of dollars of customer and taxpayer investment through renewable energy credits and federal tax credits.

“It is imperative that we act to prevent the closures of these four nuclear plants which contribute needed diversity to Ohio and Pennsylvania’s overall energy supply and provide residents a dependable power source in extreme weather situations,” said Gregg.

“Following Vermont Yankee’s shuttering in New England, we saw devastating effects. The loss of tax revenues forced local officials to make major budget concessions to the detriment of their residents, including cutting their municipal budget by 20 percent, drastically reducing police services and raising their property taxes by 20 percent.

Gregg adds that in the year following the closure, carbon emissions increased by 2.5 per cent due to nuclear energy being replaced by emission producing sources.

“It would be nothing short of irresponsible to allow the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania to share a similar fate,” he said.

Additional findings regarding the impact of these closures from the Brattle report include:

  • An electricity price increase of up to $2.43/MWh and $1.77/MWh for Ohio and Pennsylvania residents, respectively (not accounting for any financial support the plants might need to continue operating);
  • Another 15 years, at the current renewable growth rate, for the region to return to the level of zero-emissions generation in 2017.

“If these plants close, the livelihoods of thousands of Ohio and Pennsylvania residents will disappear. The over 3,000 highly skilled individuals directly employed by these sites will leave to seek employment at other facilities still operating around the country,” said Lonnie Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“In total, thousands of jobs that directly or indirectly rely on the nuclear industry in this region will be lost. Positions at nuclear plants are good, well-paying jobs for hardworking residents, and without them the fabric of these communities will be torn apart,” said Gregg.