Not so long ago, nuclear power was one of New York’s greatest energy success stories. Thanks to major investments in the 1960s, nuclear power provided about a third of the electricity in the Empire State by 2010, including powering one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.
The success is hardly surprising – the nuclear industry has delivered a basket of benefits to the states that have invested in it. It has created better-paying jobs than other energy sectors, with average wages close to $ 40 an hour (coal pays nearly $ 29).
It’s the most successful source of clean energy, supplying 20 percent of the country’s electricity. It is by far the most reliable source of energy. And despite its sensational image, it is far safer than any fossil fuel and somewhat safer than wind and sun. If you just look at US nuclear power, it is actually far safer than wind and solar power.
Left hamstrings demand clean energy for New York
But that year, before resigning in disgrace after a bomb report covering his years of sexual misconduct, former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo waged an anti-science war to shut down his state’s largest nuclear power plant, the Indian Point Power Plant. Cuomo claimed having nuclear power near New York City was in breach of “basic sanity” and insisted that the facility endangered the safety of 20 million people.
Perhaps more notably, the governor’s office said the zero-emission facility posed a threat to the state’s “environmental health.” His team even published a press release in which he published an article stating that “environmentalists are the work of Governor Cuomo.” on the responsible shutdown of dangerous power plants “in an article that did not contain a single positive comment from a non-state environmental group.
To the delight of a small group of anti-nuclear activists, Cuomo managed to shut down the power plant. Although the world record for the longest continuous power generation for a commercial light water facility (751 days) has just been broken, the Indian Point facility closed early on April 30th. As a result, nearly a quarter of New York City’s energy capacity has been deprived of a clean fossil fuel supply, hindering Cuomo’s own goal of being 50 percent carbon-free nationwide by the decade.
It will be years before the full cost of this bug is discovered and will likely include job losses, rising emissions, and rising energy prices. Additionally, air pollution is likely to be made worse by the inevitable surge in production from gas-fired power plants – and air pollution is already killing around 3,200 New Yorkers a year.
The governor used scare tactics in the hope of a few brief hymns of praise to unleash a monumental environmental flaw in the name of “environmentalism”. It’s a case study of bad leadership. Fortunately, there is another way and the Sunshine State is a perfect contrast.
Florida You’re doing it right
Instead of being targeted by Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida nuclear power is being renewed and possibly even expanded. This is shown by a look at the four nuclear reactors in the country. The two reactors at the St. Lucie plant are approved to provide power to Florida well into the 2030s and 2040s. The state’s other two reactors, at the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant, were also recently approved to continue production into the 2050s.
Florida’s nuclear production has now surpassed New York’s, perhaps for the first time. It will continue to supply nearly 90 percent of the state’s clean electricity, employ nearly 2,000 workers, and provide enough power to power more than 2.2 million homes. Would all of this have happened if Florida had been ruled like New York?
The situation in the Sunshine State could improve even further. Smaller Florida cities like Lakeland are making early plans to potentially be among the first cities to house innovative small modular reactors in the next 15 years. In addition, state energy suppliers can build two more reactors in the existing facility in Turkey Point, but this depends on the success of the new reactors at the Vogtle nuclear power plant in Georgia.
Florida isn’t the only southern state that has doubled its nuclear power. It was only in June of this year that the Oconee nuclear station in South Carolina applied to continue operations into the 2050s. It is one of 11 nuclear reactors in the Carolinas for which Duke Energy seeks renovations. Tennessee has confirmed its approval for the renewal of both reactors at its Sequoyah plant. Texas, Louisiana, and Missouri have all received similar renewal permits within the past seven years.
Strengthen the nation
While New York (and, sadly, California) has chosen to stifle its own electricity supply, Florida and the rest of the south are choosing science-based nuclear energy over cheap political issues. By allowing nuclear power to operate, these states refuse to simply bow to uninformed pressure from the political left.
Ultimately, there is no reason for nuclear power to be a red-state / blue-state issue. With the right regulation and support and the ability to act free from theater politics, it can benefit everyone. It’s good for well-paying jobs, national energy security, and the environment.
But as long as some politicians choose to go to war on nuclear energy to appease a tiny base of activists, conservatives should proudly accept their role as the ones who stand for truly clean and affordable energy.
Jonah Gottschalk studies Modern History and International Relations at the University of St Andrews.