As someone who has spent my entire career training nuclear engineers, the news two years ago that the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station outside Pittsburgh would be closing down early was extremely concerning, especially with the impending closure of Three Mile Island.
Unfortunately, action was not taken quickly enough to save Three Mile Island and its 800-plus megawatts of emissions-free power and 600-plus jobs. But there was some unexpected good news last month – and we sure could use some good news these days – with the announcement that recent policy proposals by the Wolf administration would likely delay Beaver Valley – and its workforce – from a similar fate.
The power station employs 1,000 people and has a total capacity of 1,872 megawatts, enough to power more than 1 million homes and do so with no emissions. Not only is this good news for today’s workforce in a challenging time, but also for nuclear engineering students, who are studying for jobs not only inside nuclear power plants, but also at the companies that help them to operate, such as Westinghouse, which employs thousands at its western Pennsylvania-based headquarters.
Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation when it comes to nuclear power generation.
These nuclear plants employ thousands of highly-skilled and highly-paid workers, all while providing the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s emissions-free power.
Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal, this environmental benefit will be somewhat valued under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), offering a potential path forward for thousands of Pennsylvania workers.
This announcement that Beaver Valley will stay open as long as its emissions-free power is properly valued offers progress on both preserving our zero-carbon nuclear plants and protecting the workers who sustain the industry.
We need to be mindful, though, that the challenges facing the nuclear industry are not entirely behind us. We must continue to stay diligent.
For the sake of our economy and for the sake of our environment, RGGI must be only the beginning. If these plants close, the jobs are gone forever; and if these plants close, the clean nuclear energy is going to be replaced with more harmful alternatives.
I’m thankful that Wolf is taking this action to enter Pennsylvania into RGGI. I think our commonwealth will long regret allowing Three Mile Island to close, but continuing to pursue RGGI has put our commonwealth on course to preserve this critical source of clean energy and well-paying local jobs for nuclear engineering students for years to come.
And at times like this, we will take the good news.