Summer Quarterly 2018
As nuclear power reactors age, the chances for catastrophic accidents increase because the equipment wears out. Most in the US have reached or exceeded their 40-year licenses. Utility Dive reports that President Trump has directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to stop the closure of coal and nuclear generators, pushed offline by cheaper electricity from natural gas and renewables. The order came the same day Trump directed secretary Perry to consider using the Federal Power Act and the Defense Production Act to bail out dirty, bankrupt nuclear reactors and coal power plants that can’t compete any longer with wind, solar, natural gas or efficiency programs. The possibility of extraordinary federal intervention—made possible by laws enacted for use during national emergencies like wars, hurricanes or floods—was called “legally indefensible” by the diverse group of experts.
A statement issued the same day by a broad coalition of industry, consumer and environmental groups including oil, gas, efficiency, solar and wind representatives condemned Trump’s announced bailout as unnecessary, counterproductive and harmful to ratepayers.
“Government assistance” to failed coal and nuclear reactor operators “under the guise of national security” would be “misguided,” said Todd Snitchler, a Market Development Group Director for the American Petroleum Institute. Malcolm Woolf, a vice president at the trade association Advanced Energy Economy, said, “There is no emergency that would justify propping up uneconomic power plants that are superfluous.”
Amy Farrell, a vice president at the American Wind Energy Association said, “[O]rderly power plant retirements do not constitute an emergency for our electric grid. …there’s certainly no credible justification to force taxpayers to bailout uneconomic power plants.”
Referring to earlier federal assistance to failing coal and nuclear systems, John Shelk, president and CEO of the Electric Power Supply Association, said, “There was no emergency when coal and nuclear interests sought federal relief, and there is none today that justifies such unprecedented Executive Branch intervention in the economic life of the country.”
—New York Times; American Petroleum Institute media advisory; and UtilityDive.com, all on June 1, 2018.