*Editor's Note - This article first appeared on syracuse.com
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recently visited the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County with Rep. John Katko. It was his first official visit as Secretary of Energy to a nuclear power plant.
FitzPatrick was supposed to be another statistic. The plant was scheduled to prematurely close last year, but survived an early shutdown thanks to the state's revised clean energy policy. That included consideration of nuclear energy's unique role in supplying clean, reliable baseload power, one we can count on 24/7, 365 days a year.
FitzPatrick is a key anchor to the local economy and a national asset. Keeping this plant open keeps more than 800 megawatts of reliable and resilient carbon-free power capacity on the grid, 600 high-paying skilled jobs in Oswego County, and approximately $12 million in state and local taxes in the region. FitzPatrick is also a clean generator of electricity and avoids roughly six million metric tons of carbon annually.
A number of plants are closing early due to a variety of factors including overregulation, a lack of market value for the resilient attributes of nuclear energy, and historically low, yet highly variable natural gas prices. Since 2013, six nuclear units across the nation have prematurely closed and 13 have announced early retirement, representing more than 10 percent of the nation's nuclear capacity.
That includes the Indian Point plant Downstate. Losing Indian Point will weaken our national energy and environmental security and challenge the state's ability to provide reliable and resilient clean power to New York City.
Nuclear energy produces 33 percent of New York's electricity and 56 percent of its carbon-free power. It's the most reliable energy source on the grid, which it demonstrated earlier this year during Winter Storm Grayson. All four nuclear facilities in Upstate New York operated at 100 percent power throughout the storm, providing critical electricity to more than 3 million homes and businesses when it was needed the most.
Our nation's fleet of 99 reactors is providing an incredible service to this country and helps keep our grid diverse and secure. Despite a net loss of 12 reactors since 1990, U.S. reactors have increased power production by nearly 40 percent and produced around 805 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2017. This is largely due to reactor uprates and unmatched operational efficiency as compared with all other nuclear fleets worldwide.
The Trump administration is committed to reviving and revitalizing the nuclear industry so that we can continue to realize the full benefit of what these reactors have to offer to our nation and counties such as Oswego. We are working with industry to digitize control rooms and develop sensors for online monitoring. We are developing new advanced fuels that could significantly increase plant performance and reduce operating costs at the same time. And we're working to develop a skilled nuclear workforce, since we recognize that those individuals are also vital for a vibrant civilian nuclear industry and as well as our national security.
These steps will give us time to bring new advanced reactors online, such as small modular and scalable reactors, often referred to as SMRs. They are absolute game-changers and will keep America at the forefront of innovation. SMRs will be less expensive to build; walk-away safe; highly versatile, such as load following and the ability to be paired with wind and solar plants; far more financeable; and able to be built in the USA -- keeping our jobs right here, where they belong.
It is truly an exciting time for nuclear, but we can't do it without our current fleet.
We need every reactor in New York and around our nation to keep our grid reliable and resilient as we prepare to meet our future energy demands.
Tour marks Perry’s first visit to a nuclear plant as Energy Secretary.