The news that emissions have increased in New England is disappointing, but not surprising, given the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant (“Carbon output on rise in region”). This underscores the fact that the impact of the premature closure of well-functioning nuclear energy plants is real, and that these plants should be kept open to help states and the country meet our carbon-reduction targets. These targets will only become harder to meet in New England, given the impending shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant, which produces 79 percent of Massachusetts’ emission-free electricity.
Nationally, according to a report produced by the Brattle Group in 2015, America's existing nuclear energy plants prevent more than half a billion tons of carbon emissions a year. Nuclear also accounts for 63 percent of America's total carbon-free energy supply.
Different policy solutions will be called for in different states where these assets are challenged. But if we are serious about reaching state and national carbon goals, we must value our existing nuclear plants for the environmental benefits they provide, much the same way that other sources of generation are valued for their unique attributes.
The writer is a former US senator from New Hampshire.