Bill proposes putting nuclear power on equal footing with solar, wind

A Dauphin County lawmaker today introduced legislation designed to give a lift to the state’s nuclear power plants, a move critics decry as tantamount to a bailout of the industry.

In a press conference Monday, Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) officially introduced House Bill 11, which he said is needed to prevent a costly shutdown of nuclear plants around the state.

Critics, however, have said the legislation will drive up electricity prices in Pennsylvania.

The bill would give nuclear power the same treatment as wind and solar power under a state law designed to increase the share of energy coming from renewable sources. The rationale is that like other renewable sources, nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gases held responsible for climate change.

Three Mile Island, located just outside of Harrisburg, is slated to close this fall without some form of relief.

“For the state legislature to ignore the situation would be the most irresponsible decision we’ve made in a decade,” Mehaffie said.

Mehaffie’s proposal would cost the state’s energy ratepayers about $500 million per year, he said, but he cautioned that doing nothing would cost more.

He said ratepayers in the state would pay $788 million more per year for electricity if nuclear plants shut down.

“One nuclear reactor alone produces more power than all of our wind and solar producers in the state,” Mehaffie said.

Opponents criticize efforts like Mehaffie’s as a “corporate bailout” of the nuclear power industry. They have noted three of the state’s five nuclear power plants – Peach Bottom in York County, Susquehanna in Luzerne County, and Limerick in Montgomery County – remain competitive. They also have noted that plant operators are profitable.

Environmentalists also decried the bill, saying it would not advance environmental goals.

“Pennsylvanians need and deserve a forward-thinking, long-term strategy to fight climate change and invest in a clean energy economy centered around renewable energy. This legislation does nothing to advance the deployment of renewable energy in Pennsylvania and further locks us into increasingly expensive nuclear power from old and outdated equipment,” said a statement from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Air Council, PennFuture, PennEnvironment, Keystone Progress, Clean Water Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia/Pennsylvania, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Solar Energy Association.

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