Richard Greene

Democrats’ turn against nuclear power could mean dirtier air in North Texas

Local voters should pay close attention to what Democratic presidential candidates say about shutting down the production of nuclear energy.

There is no greater contributor to the improvement of our local air quality than the 30-year-old Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant near Glen Rose.

As measured by the 20 monitoring stations throughout the region, ozone concentration levels are lower than they have ever been since standards were first set in 1979.

We would not be able to say that if not for the pollution-free production of electricity from nuclear power.

The Comanche Peak plant lights up and cools off more than a million households in North Texas. That means the plant serves more than 3 million people.

When the Democratic presidential hopefuls participated in CNN’s recent seven-hour climate crisis town hall, one after another upped the ante on abandoning the source of energy that provides more than half the nation’s zero-carbon electricity.

Among the leading three contenders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren topped them all with plans to shut down nuclear plants across the country in the next 15 years and replace the lost energy with “renewable” sources such as wind and solar.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was quick to say he would impose a moratorium on license renewals for plants and stop the construction of any new plants.

Former Vice President Joe Biden — realizing his role in the Obama administration, which increased the amount of money available for nuclear energy loan guarantees to more than $54 billion — said he thought nuclear power ought to be included in the mix of clean energy in the future.

In addition to abandoning nuclear power and apparently believing millennials and even younger voters hold the keys to the White House in 2020, these contenders are also embracing the elimination of fossil fuels, some aiming to achieve that result as soon as 10 years from now — itself a fantasy.

It’s within that demographic we find growing support for the belief that civilization will collapse if we don’t eliminate carbon emissions from the production of the energy we need for our daily lives.

What is missing from the pandering is reality. The rhetoric is what matters and plans are elusive for where the money needed for such a conversion from traditional sources of fuels to wind and solar will be found.

Estimates of the cost bounce around. Sanders has the highest figures – something like $16 trillion. To put that number in perspective, it’s approaching the amount of our total public national debt.

No one has real answers to the questions of what happens to the millions of jobs lost in the imagined conversion from nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas to dependence on the wind blowing and the sun shining.

One other thing gets overlooked. The president alone doesn’t have the power to do any of these things. It will require new law to implement these promises.

The last time Congress tried to pass such legislation, the whole effort collapsed, even though Democrats were in complete control of the House, the Senate and the White House.

While we wait to see what the future holds, locally we can breathe easier because of the progress made with real-life solutions to a healthier environment — including nuclear power.

Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor, served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and lectures at UT Arlington.