On Thursday, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said a nuclear and coal bailout is necessary to keep America free.  The DOE is investigating ways to help the coal and nuclear industries, including possibly ordering grid operators to purchase power from them.  Reuters photo by Chris Baltimore.

Nuclear, coal bailout important as keeping military strong: Perry

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Thursday that financially rescuing coal and nuclear power plants is as important to national security as keeping the military strong, and that the cost of the nuclear and coal bailout should not be an issue to Americans.

When asked about the cost of extending the lives of these aging facilities, Perry told reporters “You cannot put a dollar figure on the cost to keep America free”.

And when questioned about the cost of a potential bailout, Perry said he did not yet know.  “We don’t have a dollar estimate at this particular point.”

“We look at the electricity grid as every bit as important to (national security) as making sure we have the right number of ships, aircraft and personnel,” he said. “What is your freedom worth?”

Perry also argued that nearly all US military bases rely on electricity from the civilian grid.

According to Reuters, US President Donald Trump ordered the DOE to take emergency measures to delay the retirement of coal and nuclear power plants.  The Trump administration argues these facilities can store months of fuel on site, allowing them to withstand supply disruptions possibly caused by storms, hacks or physical attacks.

In recent years, natural gas and renewables have made major inroads into the electricity market, pushing out aging nuclear facilities and coal-fired power plants.

However, the Trump administration sees renewable energy as vulnerable because electricity can only be produced under certain weather conditions.  They argue gas-fired power plants are vulnerable because their pipelines can be disrupted.

This grid policy dovetails nicely with the Trump government’s agenda to boost US fossil fuels production and to save the waning coal industry.

Reuters reports that the Department of Energy is studying ways to bail out coal and nuclear facilities.  One way to accomplish this would be to mandate grid operators to purchase power from coal and nuclear plants.

Cyber experts disagree with the reasoning behind a nuclear and coal bailout.  They say it will not toughen the US power grid against cyber attacks as hackers have many tricks to hit electrical infrastructure and they add that nuclear facilities are high-profile targets.