New York debating value of nuclear power in state's future

Dec 4, 2015

As world leaders look for ways to combat climate change in Paris, New York officials are working on their own plan for a green future in the state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for the state's Public Service Commission to enforce his goal of more renewable energy and, as part of that effort, temporary support for struggling nuclear power plants like the James A. FitzPatrick and Ginna plants to prevent them from closing prematurely. Otherwise, the governor said it would set back the reduction in carbon emission New York has already achieved

State Senator and Senate Energy Committee Chairman Joseph Griffo praised the change, saying New York needs a diversified portfolio of energy sources.

"We do provide a lot of incentives in solar right now and some in wind," Griffo said. "We are not doing that with nuclear and from my perspective, nuclear is a form of clean power because of the carbon foot print."

The nuclear power industry is considered clean energy by some because it doesn't emit carbon dioxide. That's why Griffo said he would be receptive to legislation in the state senate next year that would offer carbon tax credits for nuclear plants like what wind and solar sources currently enjoy.

But, Alliance for a Green Economy spokeswoman Jessica Azulay said nuclear power is far from clean.

"Nuclear power plants emit a lot of radiation during the course of business and, of course, there’s nuclear waste at the end that is kind of an intractable problem, has nowhere to go and has to be stored for generations."

Some environmental groups advocate that nuclear plants should be part of the state's transition to 50 percent renewables by 2030, but the Alliance for a Green Economy said the state shouldn't be stealing subsidies that could otherwise be used for future investments in green energy.

"We think the biggest bang for the buck is not to subsidize economically struggling nuclear reactors which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year, but to instead put that money toward cheaper and cleaner alternatives," Azulay said.