BRAIDWOOD – When asked by U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, if they or someone they know works at a nuclear plant, all the local residents in the room raised their hands Wednesday morning at Braidwood City Hall.
“We have more nuclear power plants – four in the 16th District – than any other congressional district in the country,” Kinzinger said.
Joined by Exelon Braidwood Generating Station Vice President Mark Kanavos and Illinois Clean Energy Coalition Executive Director Doug O’Brien at the Braidwood Nuclear Energy Forum, Kinzinger’s panel discussed the importance of nuclear energy locally and nationally.
The forum touched on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which was unveiled Monday. Kinzinger said initial talks among lawmakers did not recognize the role of nuclear energy.
Although he’s concerned with parts of the plan, such as how much it will end up costing American energy consumers, Kinzinger is pleased with its approach to nuclear energy.
About 20 percent of the country uses nuclear energy, but close to 50 percent of Illinois uses it. Not everyone knows the policies behind nuclear energy, but at least they recognize its importance, he said.
“It’s my job to be an advocate on [Capitol] Hill and stress to people who do not understand the tax base it brings, the great schools it brings. And by the way – great schools are a huge step for kids to be able to climb the economic ladder,” Kinzinger said.
Among other standards listed in the Clean Power Plan, carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 32 percent nationally by 2030, compared to 2005 when they were the highest in recorded history. The new power plan gives more credit to nuclear power than originally planned, Kinzinger said.
O’Brien said some of the trepidation surrounding nuclear energy goes back decades to incidents that happened around the world. He said nuclear energy is consistently environmentally beneficial. Several audience members agreed, saying they’d rather live near the nuclear stations than the chemical companies in the area.
O’Brien said it’s not feasible at this time to shut down nuclear stations.
If Illinois were to shut down one of its nuclear power plants and replace it with fossil fuel energy generation for one year, it would create enough carbon dioxide emissions to equal the emissions from motor vehicles in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana combined within the same time frame, he said.
“We can’t meet new
standards without nuclear energy,” O’Brien said.
It’s not possible to flick a switch and change completely to wind or solar power, he said, because it’s not as predictable nor reliable.
O’Brien added that Germany shut down several of its nuclear plants – and carbon dioxide emissions increased by 25 percent in the first year.
“We have to keep that in mind in Illinois moving forward,” O’Brien said.
America is being passed by the other countries, O’Brien said, because of regulations that allow the federal government to throw money at other technologies. O’Brien believes there should be a level playing field for all clean energy forms instead of picking a winner and a loser.
“There’s a real and present threat of nuclear power plants closing, which would mean a loss of jobs and clean energy, and cause an increase to ratepayers,” O’Brien said.