Nuclear should be left out of state energy master plan

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 09/12/07


Exelon Corp. recently funded the creation of a group with the highly misleading name of the New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy (NJ ACRE) Coalition. In reality, the group is little more than a front for the nuclear industry.

The timing of the group's launch is no accident. This fall, Gov. Corzine will unveil an energy master plan that will detail New Jersey's energy future for the next 15 years. Exelon and PSE&G are working to ensure the governor writes nuclear into the plan instead of taking the state toward a more visionary new energy future.

A lot is on the line. Imagine that Corzine rejects the utility lobby and uses his energy master plan to implement and build upon New Jersey's recent renewable energy and global warming legislation. Imagine tens of thousands of homes and businesses saving money and generating their own clean energy with solar panels on their rooftops. Imagine turbines that harness the state's vast wind potential and produce no waste or harmful emissions. Imagine high-performance homes, businesses and appliances that make use of new innovation, reduce consumption and clear the air.

The governor could bring this vision to light and live up to his promise to make New Jersey a leader in clean energy. Exelon and PSE&G, however, hope he will uphold the status quo and continue to power the state with dangerous, expensive and outdated energy sources such as nuclear.

The Oyster Creek and Salem nuclear power plants are scheduled to retire between 2009 and 2020. The plants pose tremendous environmental, health and safety concerns and account for roughly 17 percent of New Jersey's electric generating capacity. And yet, Exelon and PSE&G are lobbying to extend the plants' licenses and build a new nuclear power plant 48 miles south of Philadelphia in South Jersey.

Oyster Creek is the nation's oldest nuclear power plant and stores its radioactive waste right on site in Lacey in Ocean County. Evacuation in the event of an accident would be difficult, if not impossible. Salem also stores its waste on site. Oyster Creek and Salem both cause significant damage to New Jersey's marine resources, with Salem alone killing about 3 billion Delaware River fish each year.

Given these and other problems, it's clear why Exelon needs to spend so much money to mislead the public and promote a dangerous, outdated technology. In reality, new nuclear plants take at least 10 years to build and cost taxpayers, on average, roughly $4 billion per plant.

Leading scientists, including NASA's James Hansen, have warned we have less than a decade to develop and execute a plan to curb our global warming emissions. What's more, despite decades of government subsidies, nuclear is still more expensive than the emerging wind technologies.

It is clear nuclear power will not solve our global warming crisis. We can't allow Exelon, PSE&G or nuclear front groups to continue to distract us from solving this problem in the cleanest, most visionary way possible.

Luckily, we have the technology at hand to power our state with clean, renewable energy sources and permanently retire the Oyster Creek and Salem nuclear power plants by 2020. This spring, Environment New Jersey released a peer-reviewed report that demonstrates that by crafting a visionary energy master plan that favors efficiency, supports the development of solar and wind technologies, and provides incentives for business to conserve power during peak demand periods, we can account for more than 8,200 megawatts of capacity and fill the gap left by Oyster Creek and Salem. And we can do so in a way that supports the state's economy and supports innovation instead of supporting the nuclear industry.

Matt Elliott is the clean energy and global warming advocate for Environment New Jersey, Trenton.