Bernie Sanders shows why you don’t shut down nuclear

Mike Shellenberger writes in Forbes about the results of one of Vermont Sen. and current Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ very bad ideas: successfully urging the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

This is important because a “phase out” of all nuclear power plants in America is a part of Sanders’ climate plan. It’s a colossally bad idea. For that matter, so is banning hydraulic fracking, and Sanders recently introduced legislation to do just that.

JLF readers know that research shows the negative unintended consequences of getting rid of nuclear power, and they know the positive unintended consequences from fracking:

NC kept our nuclear plants. How are we doing in comparison with Vermont?

At this point it’s worth comparing Vermont’s results with North Carolina’s. Vermont shuttered a nuclear power plant. North Carolina kept ours. Here’s how North Carolina’s electricity generation changed over the course of this century, thanks to price-competitive natural gas from fracking and retaining nuclear:

At the start of the century, coal was the top source of electricity in North Carolina by far, producing nearly two-thirds (62.1 percent) of the state’s electricity. Now it’s nuclear (33 percent) following by natural gas (30 percent).

So that’s our baseline for comparison. These data aren’t from comparable years, but they still capture what’s going on:

  • Emissions, VT: +16% (between 1990 and 2015)
  • Emissions, NC: –37.5% (from 2000 to 2017)
  • Emissions per capita, VT: +5%
  • Emissions per capita, NC: –50.8%

energy costs brookings

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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