The following editorial appeared in the Scranton Times-Tribune. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune-Democrat.
Nuclear power remains crucial to Pennsylvania and should become even more so as pressure mounts for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
Pennsylvania produces almost all of the electricity consumed in-state, and it is by far the largest exporter of electricity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Pennsylvania exported an average of more than 65 million megawatthours of electricity from 2003 through 2017, well ahead of second-place Alabama’s 45 million megawatthours.
Pennsylvania also is the second-leading producer of nuclear power, at about 36% of the state’s total output even after the closing of the reactor at Three Mile Island, according to the EIA.
Natural gas is the leading fuel for power production in the state at 42.8% of the total. But gas is a fossil fuel, and the industry’s spotty record in controlling methane leakage raises the question of just how much the fuel’s rise reduces overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Wind and solar production have increased, but nuclear power still accounts for 92% of carbon-free power production. Pennsylvania cannot meet its ambitious carbon-reduction targets without nuclear power playing a major role.
The nuclear industry is trying to wrest subsidies from state governments to maintain profitability.
Pennsylvania’s legislative rejection of a subsidy proposal resulted in Three Mile Island’s closure.
Another bill is pending that would make nuclear power part of the state’s renewable energy portfolio, which would subsidize nuclear power at a cost to ratepayers of about $500 million a year.
Before the Legislature goes any further, it carefully should review an appalling scandal in Ohio, where the government approved a $1.3 nuclear energy subsidy last year.
The Ohio House speaker, Republican Larry Householder has been charged in a bribery scheme. Federal prosecutors allege that Householder steered $60 million from nuclear energy interests into a dark money political operation.
Prosecutors contend that one of the companies involved in the Ohio case is First Energy Corp., which denies any wrongdoing.
The company also is the parent company of one of the Pennsylvania plants that would benefit from a state subsidy here.
Before considering any subsidies, the Legislature and state Attorney General Josh Shapiro should ensure that the heavily lobbied matter is purely a matter of public policy.