Pennsylvania's policymakers have been rudely awakened by recent developments affecting the nuclear power industry. Many of us in organized labor believe we are approaching a critical moment, and the stakes could not be higher as they relate to jobs and the economy.
The Keystone State ranks second in the nation in nuclear power generating capacity. Our nine reactors provide about 16,000 direct and indirect jobs at more than 500 companies, contributing $2 billion annually to the state's gross domestic product and $69 million in tax revenue. These are family-sustaining and community-building jobs necessary to maintain economic stability in the regions surrounding each plant.
Exelon Generation already has given notice that it intends to close Three Mile Island in 2019 absent policy reforms that recognize the value of carbon-free electricity. Such a move would put 675 plant workers out of good-paying jobs, which would send significant negative ripples through the local economy.
Just south of Allentown, the Limerick Power Station employs up to 250 regional carpenters resulting in 60,000 hours of high-skilled labor each year. Annual shutdowns employ up to 2,500 specialized laborers providing maintenance and refueling services.
Across the country, similar conversations are occurring where other nuclear power generators have acknowledged that they, too, are experiencing unprecedented economic pressures and will likely follow a similar path if conditions do not improve.
And in several instances, safe, reliable and well-run nuclear plants already have closed prematurely, taking with them jobs and economic benefits that are not easily replaced.
Plant closures can have devastating impacts on local communities. For instance, in 2014, when the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in New England shut down after a 42-year run, the surrounding community lost more than 600 well-paying jobs and $60 million each year from the plant's annual contributions to the local economy. Residents were also burdened by a rise in electricity prices and property taxes.
Closing any one of Pennsylvania's nuclear power plants would have serious environmental consequences as well. Nuclear power provides 93 percent of the carbon-free electricity generated in the state, and the vast majority of that electricity would be replaced with carbon-emitting sources.
What are the potential solutions? Illinois and New York have both found ways to preserve nuclear generation, while moving toward greater reliance on renewable energy. As a result, those states can effectively continue to manage and reduce carbon emissions.
We are encouraged by the fact that in Pennsylvania, several dozen members of the General Assembly have formed the first bipartisan Nuclear Power Caucus and are beginning to explore the reliability, safety, and economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy.
We urge them to undertake a thorough examination of the issue and work to balance environmental and economic needs in a way that not only will serve the best interests of the commonwealth, but also create an inclusive and forward-looking energy policy that values the contributions each energy resource offers.
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