Richmond, VA -- A new issue brief from Food & Water Watch highlights the dangers of propping up aging nuclear facilities and investing resources into new ones. Despite what the nuclear industry claims, nuclear power is not clean, safe, or renewable. Moreover, nuclear energy cannot act as a silver bullet when it comes to climate crisis solutions, and it exacerbates water problems and pollutes communities with radioactive waste.
While the Virginia Clean Economy Act (HB 1526/SB 815) and another energy bill (HB1303) claim to build a pathway to a clean energy future, a major pitfall in both cases is that the bills try to slip nuclear in as part of the “zero carbon” energy program. For years, the nuclear industry has been touting itself as ‘zero carbon’ as a way to insert nuclear power into the renewables conversation; however, nuclear energy is neither clean nor renewable.
But the report highlights key findings about the faults and misconceptions surrounding nuclear power, including:
- Nuclear power plants take an estimated 10 to 19 years from initial planning to electricity generation, compared to just 2 to 5 years for utility solar and wind, while producing up to 37 times more emissions per kilowatt-hour than wind energy.
- Heavy reliance on water makes nuclear power plants vulnerable to a changing climate where extreme weather events are more prevalent. Droughts, water shortages and increasing water temperatures can reduce electricity generation at facilities or cause temporary shutdowns, making them an unreliable energy source in a warming climate.
- For every megawatt-hour of electricity produced, nuclear plants on average consume roughly 750 gallons of water, whereas solar and wind generation use on average 125 gallons and less than 1 gallon, respectively.
- Nuclear energy is more expensive than clean renewable energy sources. Per kilowatt-hour, new nuclear power plants cost 2.3 to 7.4 times more than onshore wind or utility-scale solar plants, a burden which is transferred on to taxpayers when state governments subsidize nuclear energy.
- The United States spends roughly $500 million a year storing radioactive waste from nuclear power plants; this is expected to increase as the inventory grows.
These findings show how imperative it is that Virginia steer clear of subsidizing or incentivizing new or existing nuclear reactors, and instead push for truly clean, renewable energy.