Now that Burlington, Vermont, has proved that an American city can generate 100 percent of its energy from renewables, the time to close the Ginna nuclear power plant has arrived. Electricity fees are plummeting, and the costs associated with running a nuclear power plant are skyrocketing. Despite initial hardships, the economic and environmental advantages of transitioning to a renewable power grid are undeniable.
Let’s begin with the facts. Ginna is the nation’s second-smallest reactor and the seventh oldest in the world. In 2012, the plant was scheduled to lose $43 million before it was rescued by the corporate behemoth Exelon. If not for “must-run” contracts and other subsidies such as the one currently planned, 300,000 utility users could avoid dumping $132 million annually into an energy pitfall, and instead capitalize on alternatives.
The Alliance for a Green Economy has shown that for every 1.7 jobs created by Ginna, there are 5.4 jobs that could be created by solar and nearly 7.2 jobs that could be created in the energy efficiency sector.
Furthermore, the decommissioning of nuclear reactors requires hundreds of skilled labor jobs. Many Ginna workers could find new employment while fostering an occupational field that will provide for their children and grandchildren.
So rather than think about losing jobs in Wayne County, we should think about creating new jobs that will last longer, pay better, and be far safer for the environment.
Studies by MIT, the Commission on Energy Policy, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have demonstrated that at least 2,000 large new atomic reactors would have to be built worldwide for nuclear power to make any meaningful dent in carbon emissions. (Fewer than 400 reactors now operate globally.)
What is more, construction of 2,000 new reactors would cost trillions of dollars, take decades, and produce extremely dangerous levels of radioactive waste. If we are serious about climate change, we must move away from the nuclear option.
Wayne County can lay the foundation for a vibrant and robust green economy that will propel their community into the future. The time to transition is now. Like the entire nation, Wayne County is ready for the change.
Payne is founder-director of Gandhi Earth Keepers International.