Sunday, February 8, 2015


By Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images
President Barack Obama is getting serious about climate change, a challenge that "poses a greater threat to future generations" than any other, he said in last week's State of the Union. In July, his administration announced an EPA regulation to slash carbon pollution from power plants. In November, he struck a pact with China on long-term emission reductions. And recently the White House unveiled a plan to cut methane emissions nearly in half by 2025.
Addressing climate change means, in large part, stepping away from dirty energy sources like coal and oil and toward cleaner sources. That’s a good thing. But it requires developing more energy elsewhere, including from one alternative source that has gotten scant attention in the mainstream press: nuclear energy, which poses its own serious environmental risks. 
The EPA’s proposed power-plant regulation provides a carbon credit to states for maintaining nuclear energy production at current levels: in other words, a carbon subsidy for maintaining the nuclear status quo. Following the release of the draft rules, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy made clear that the credit is meant, in part, to help the struggling nuclear industry. “There are a handful of nuclear facilities that, because they are having trouble remaining competitive, they haven’t yet looked at re-licensing,” she said at a roundtable discussion with business leaders in Chicago. If nuclear energy plants begin closing, she warned, “It’s a lot of carbon reduction that needs to be made up for a long period of time.”