Nuclear Power's Impact On New Jersey

tt-nuclear.jpgIt would be difficult to volunteer a word that has more potential for raising a reflexive concern than the term nuclear. While we know the benefits that nuclear energy provides — plenty of affordable, reliable energy to the world — we allow, privately at least, to fall into the valley of doubt, skepticism and fear about its continued use.

It is easy to take New Jersey’s nuclear plants for granted and underestimate the huge positive economic impact they have on the state – and especially South Jersey. However, as more and more nuclear plants close across the nation, it makes sense to take a closer look at just how important an economic engine they are for our region and understand that these plants are worth preserving.

For that reason, the role of energy, the environment and the economic concerns for our region will continue to be an unending discussion. And if we are to offer our intelligence, creativity and problem-solving skills, then every possible answer is something we must carefully analyze. When it comes to solving the growing need for energy, while reducing carbon emissions to deal with climate change, then honest debate on the pros and cons of preserving New Jersey’s nuclear energy generation potential should be on our collective agenda. 

Here in New Jersey, the Salem and Hope Creek plants employ 1,600 full-time workers – employees with good salaries and benefits. The vast majority of these workers live and spend their salaries – a payroll totaling more than $175 million a year – in New Jersey. A recent study by The Brattle Group, “Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plant’s Contribution to the New Jersey Economy,” estimates that if these nuclear plants were to close there would be a loss of 5,800 direct and indirect jobs. The report also shows that the nuclear plants in South Jersey contribute more than $800 million annually to New Jersey’s gross domestic product (GDP) and are responsible for more than $37 million in state and local tax revenues each year.

This is not just an issue for the thousands of people who will lose their jobs if the plants close. Workers and their family members are affected as they are forced to leave the region to find employment, neighbors are impacted as property values and school enrollments drop, and all residents are impacted by decreased services or higher tax rates as revenues for local and state coffers decline. It is a story that has been repeated everywhere that nuclear plants have closed.

New Jersey’s growing challenge in this area of meeting an increased demand for energy, the proper stewardship of our environment in the face of the overwhelming evidence of climate change and maintaining the economic vitality of our region will require innovative thinking and bold investment. Here in New Jersey, it will require focusing on meeting these laudable objectives, rather than designating which vehicles can and cannot be used to meet these challenges.

The need for various sources of clean power has never been clearer. A conversation about nuclear energy is fraught with knee-jerk reactions that require a conscious effort for each of us to step back and deal rationally with all of the facts. Considering that currently roughly 40 percent of New Jersey’s energy is produced by nuclear power, we cannot ignore the future of this industry in our state. Furthermore, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), nuclear energy generates 98.5 percent of New Jersey’s carbon-free energy and, the nature of that use, including safety and efficiency, has progressed significantly each and every year.

If we are to truly reach our state’s clean energy goals and stem the tide of climate change, we cannot allow ourselves to be prisoners of old world thinking. As technological innovations abound, we need to embrace the advancements in energy science to ensure that our state’s energy needs are met. That includes ensuring that New Jersey’s nuclear plants can continue to provide safe, reliable and clean energy to our region. That’s my take. What’s yours?

Showing 18 reactions

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  • Richard Montgomery
    commented 2018-02-22 14:35:50 -0500
    I’m with you. I work for PSEG and I’m a voter in your district. I very much appreciate a politician who thinks logically and acts smartly on important topics. Keep it up!
  • Paul Bryant
    commented 2018-01-07 11:27:43 -0500
    Nuclear is a great energy production source except for the waste product. One human error, or natural disaster will cost NJ untold billions. Also, what’s to say PSE&G won’t come back demanding more subsidies. The best cure for NJ energy needs is competition from other energy producers.
  • Daniel W. Preston
    commented 2018-01-05 14:29:27 -0500
    Hi Glenn … if that’s all true, why the rush to pass this in a lame duck to be signed by a very unpopular soon-to-be-ex-Governor Christie? If the bill can stand on its merits in the light of day after the review of our new Governor Murphy and his administration, and debate and public input before the newly-elected Legislature, then that’s how it should proceed. The process so far (okay I’m exaggerating somewhat but not entirely) seems more like the Republican rush in Washington to pass the tax bill, and just as unlikely to result in good public policy.
  • Glenn Schwartz
    commented 2018-01-05 14:21:13 -0500
    Looking at the negative comments toward the nuclear power safety net bill (S2560/A5330), there seems to be a big disparity between the actual bill wording and perception of bill. The subsidy is not, as some think, a continual income stream for PSE&G. The bill requires the company to be transparent with regards to the costs to operate the nuclear facilities safely and reliably in an industry that is much more heavily regulated than other sources of carbon-free energy. The need for the proposed cost recovery would have to be demonstrated by PSE&G and reviewed by an independent board on a triennial basis.

    Without this bill moving forward, PSE&G could possibly determine that the cost to operate Hope Creek and Salem no longer makes economic sense. Once the decision is made to permanently shut down a nuclear power plant there is no turning back. Presently, wind and solar power (despite the monetary subsidies and incentives) do not have the capacity to make up the baseload electrical demand required 24/7 that is supplied by the Hope Creek and Salem nuclear power stations. If these plants were to close in the near term, PSE&G would have to, and in short order, replace most of the lost power with natural gas plants. Ultimately, all ratepayers could end up paying more for electricity than they would for the potential nuclear subsidy, reliability may not be as sure and most of this power generation would be carbon emitting rather than carbon free. Opposition to S3560/A5330 is opposition to stable energy reliability and cost, along with clean electric power generation.
  • David Barnett
    commented 2018-01-05 08:43:09 -0500
    I think you need to consider the impact of an accident in such a highly and densely populated area. This risk is just too high. Forget human terms….as thats lost on you. The economic impact would be forever.
  • Eric Baratta
    commented 2018-01-05 08:42:10 -0500
    Three things give me immediate pause about this— 1. The timing of this during Chris Christie’s lame duck session. 2. Steven Sweeney’s role in pushing it (which relates to #1.) 3. The resemblance of the ‘what about the jobs’ argument that Donald Trump has used with coal and oil production and climate change denial. Many good points made by others below—this seems rushed and lacking transparency. With a new governor coming in, I’m disappointed you feel the need to push this at this point.
  • Craig Alper Alper
    commented 2018-01-04 16:17:24 -0500
    As a small business owner, I am against a 300 million dollar corporate welfare gift. PSE&G is a profitable company, they do not need the taxpayers of NJ to subsidize them.
    If they do, then perhaps they should consider a different business model.
  • Steve Stern
    commented 2018-01-04 15:38:01 -0500
    But, Peter Fritz, battery and other technologies will be available to even out the load when weather and darkness are present. Are we there today? No, but we’re well on the way. Better to spend money on R&D for these technologies than on ticking time bomb nukes in our midst.
  • Peter Fritz
    commented 2018-01-04 15:35:23 -0500
    Full disclosure, my son is a certified plant manager with a nuclear power station in PA, and we discuss these factors for many hours. Technologically, solar, wind, biomass and other emerging technologies have huge potential, but all must rely on reliable base generation for when the sun isn’t shining, wind isn’t blowing etc. This leaves hydroelectric, fossil fuel and nuclear plants to keep us going. Once a nuclear plant is built and on line, it is the most efficient and cleanest sources of energy. The biggest problem is that we stopped building new plants and we can only innovate so far with 50 year old plants. Plants are very expensive to build and the workforce is very expensive to train. Two years of training and simulators before they can even begin the actual work. The nuclear energy community’s complaint is that solar, wind, biomass, tidal are all receiving subsidies to get up and running, while nuclear is not being compensated for their huge front end costs. There are also regulations preventing nuclear plants from reconstituting spent fuels for reuse. Another problem is that every US plant is unique. if a worker transfers to a new plant they begin training from scratch. I understand every plant in France is built to the same plan, making training transferable to a great extent from one plant to another. These are all cost factors borne by the nuclear industry that people don’t see.
  • Brian Lestini
    commented 2018-01-04 15:22:10 -0500
    Troy – thanks for bringing this conversation to the forefront, and your leadership in building a clean energy economy for NJ. Undoubtedly the transition to 100% renewable energy will be complex, and it’s certainly important to consider the role of nuclear in that transition. My biggest concern with S3560 is that, unlike similar laws in neighboring states like New York, this proposed bill does not link subsidies to a commitment from PSE&G to increase investment in renewable energy. Therefore, as older plants are retired, they will likely be replaced with cheaper natural gas (which is a fossil fuel and does substantially contribute to greenhouse gases, among many other public health and environmental concerns), rather than renewable sources. This is an important opportunity to tell PSE&G that, if the taxpayers and customers are going to subsidize nuclear, then we expect them to commit to delivering on future goals to achieve 100% renewable, rather than prioritizing cheaper natural gas. As you also rightly point out this is an issue that must be carefully analyzed, and one that deserves much more time, thought and input than can be done within a lame duck session.
  • Steve Stern
    commented 2018-01-04 15:10:15 -0500
    I would take issue with Kevin Mcgongal’s assertion that no Americans have been harmed by nuclear energy. It would be interesting to analyze the number of new cancers in the US after the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
  • Matt Ernandes
    commented 2018-01-04 15:08:26 -0500
    Though saving jobs is a worthy cause, if this was the late 70’s after the accidents on Three Mile Island and in Chernobyl, you might have a different view. I am an advocate of renewable fuel sources and reducing use of fossil fuels, but fission is not a preferred alternative for me.
  • David Caplin
    commented 2018-01-04 14:51:55 -0500
    Steven Stern makes a great point. Nuclear energy is great. The by-product is terrifying. What to do with the spent fuel rods? Until that problem is solved nuclear plants should go. I’m all for saving jobs and the local economy. So, now the pressure is on. While it is not truly feasible, maybe the 5800 people whose jobs are effected can be put to work finding the solution.
  • Kevin Mcgonigal
    commented 2018-01-04 14:46:44 -0500
    Perhaps another way to look at this is to see is to determine how dangerous it is to produce, and in the case of any of the fossil fuels, also to transport, energy. Producing fossil fuels kills workers, the one who extract the energy and those who must transport it to where it is consumed. There is also the added potential, but very real, danger to the public from shipping, tanker trucks, pipelines and especially rail lines who move the product. How many workers or members of the public have ever been killed in the USA by a nuclear accident? While fossil fuels will decline in use and renewables eventually replace most of them, I would be cautious about terminating an industry that produces energy at reasonable cost and whose safety record for producing and transmitting it is quite safe by comparison with fossils fuels. As Abraham Lincoln once put it, “Before you take down a fence, you better find out why it was put up in the first place”.
  • Edward Cohen
    commented 2018-01-04 14:40:39 -0500
    Is the bill being considered giving PSE&G $350 million per year? If so, that means NJ Taxpayers are paying all their salaries and giving them an extra $175 million. How is that good for NJ taxpayers? If that money was instead invested in renewables (such as offshore wind), how many permanent good-paying jobs will be generated? Rushing through a huge payout without deliberating alternatives (and PSE&G’s true finances) seems ill-advised.
  • Daniel W. Preston
    commented 2018-01-04 14:15:54 -0500
    Unfortunately the legislation that is currently being rushed through would give huge subsidies to PSE&G, paid by the tax/ratepayers, without requiring the company to open its books to see if the subsidy is warranted (even if one accepts the role of nuclear which is debatable). Moreover, since much of the power is sold out of state, NJ citizens get stuck with the bill to subsidize PSE&G profits and out-of-state users. Why not slow down, hold more hearings, insist that PSE&G open its books, and allow the incoming Murphy administration enough time to examine the issue and weigh in? Rushing this through the lame duck in partnership with Christie, sad to say, doesn’t pass the smell test.
  • Steve Stern
    commented 2018-01-04 14:10:28 -0500
    Nuclear power is neither cheap nor clean. Maybe in the short term, but the risks that we pass on to future generations are great. First, the nation has no comprehensive approach to the safe storage or transport of nuclear waste. In situ storage at the plants provides a prime target for terrorists looking for dirty bomb material. One Fukushima type accident negates all of the “savings” incurred by this dirty fuel source. Sure, people say the plant can be safe, and we don’t get tsunamis often here in New Jersey, but it’s the unknown, unanticipated risk that we should worry about.

    Having said that, we must still rely on dirty fuels like nuclear and natural gas until we can get to 100% renewables. Renewable generation is cheaper and energy storage technologies are advancing in leaps and bounds. We need government officials who have the same guts that JFK had in his call to land on the moon. You and your colleagues need to commit to totally renewable by 2030, a goal that is achievable if we have the will.
  • Roy Plummer
    commented 2018-01-04 14:07:25 -0500
    I worked in the nuclear industry for five years – GE Nuclear Energy. I have been to a number of plants throughout the U.S. it’s a safe and efficient energy source and should be considered as a viable, reliable energy alternative/option.