Legislature Must Consider HB 6

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 I am writing in response to last week’s article “House Bill 6 Poses Serious Environmental, Health Risks” (The Oberlin Review, Dec. 6, 2019).

I was involved in the multi-year campaign to keep the Lake Erie-based nuclear electric generators open and operating. The Ohio Public Utilities Commission reports that 15 percent of Ohio’s total electrical generation volume comes from these facilities. This electricity is provided to customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of the weather. The electricity is generated by the fission of uranium in nuclear reactors — a process that is highly monitored, maintained, regulated, and inspected.

The Ohio PUC reports that 11 million tons of carbon, 18,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 12,000 tons of nitrous oxides emissions have been avoided since the plants began operation in the late ’70s and the mid-1980s. This is because they displaced fossil fuel combustion electrical generation. Davis Besse has been re-licensed to operate up to the year 2037 and Perry Nuclear Generating Station could be re-licensed after 2025 for another 20 years up-to 2045. Both facilities account for all of the partially fissioned uranium fuel rods in Ohio. 

Nowadays, the current fleet of nuclear reactors — 99 in total — produces 20 percent of the United States total electrical generation. Most of the fleet was originally constructed three to four decades ago. However, the original builders would recognize very little of the operation subsystems. The fleet on average provides electricity 92 percent of the year between fueling and maintenance outages. They are also some of the most injury-free industrial workplaces for the engineers and union trade people. Both facilities, east and west of Cleveland, are the cornerstones of their local county’s economy. Davis Besse NPP occupies 947 acres, most of which is a nature preserve and 1,100 acres at Perry, most of which is also a nature preserve.

Some Ohioans have said that FirstEnergy Corp really doesn’t care where it gets the electricity it sells to customers. 

If the plants were closed, they would be decommissioned, an expensive process that electricity rate payers have also kicked into our electric bills. FirstEnergy Corp would be eligible to extract administrative fees from these decommissioning funds. So if the plants operate or if they don’t, it will not hurt the corporation’s profitability. Plant closure, post decommissioning, would hurt both county and the state and regional economies. This scenario has played out multiple times as first generation nuclear power plants have been closed around the country.

When one looks at Ohio Public Utility Commission data, the big picture of renewable electricity generation becomes evident. After years of mandates and tax credits and the relaxation of migratory bird and endangered species regulations, wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels only make up three percent of electricity production statewide. Hydro dams make up one percent and are pretty reliable, outside of drought periods. Solar only works when the sun is out and wind energy only works when it’s blowing enough to spin turbines. What makes up the nighttime generation and the windless periods? Fossil fuel burning, mostly from rapid-starting, fracked gas burner plants.

Those two nuclear power generators in good working order that have been essentially paid for by citizens’ electricity bill past payments. HB 6 keeps them operating. We all benefit from cleaner electricity. The renewable energy mandate should be modified into a clean energy mandate. Maybe the state legislature can take a look at the old Zero Emission Credit proposal.

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that get you into trouble, it’s what you know for certain that just ain’t so that does”. 

Many good hearted environmentalists think they understand energy and electricity production. I encourage folks to really study the issue. A good starting point is this website: www.ElectricityMap.org. Another good website is: www.GridWatch.ca. It goes into detail on the Ontario Canada grid — often the most carbon-reduced electricity grid on the planet. If you commit to looking at these sites, you’ll know more about real world electricity generation than 98 percent of the people on the planet.