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Pro-renewable energy group calls nuclear study 'propaganda'

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant outside Rochester

As the state plans to implement the governor's goal for double the amount of renewable energy on the market, a new study says losing upstate nuclear power plants would be a major set back for the initiative. The findings suggest that without nuclear power utilities would turn to fossil fuels over renewable sources.

The economic consultant firm Brattle Group found that 16 million tons of carbon dioxide would be released into the air a year if New York lost its three upstate nuclear power plants -- Fitzpatrick, Rochester's Ginna and Nine Mile Point. It's one of the many findings in their study which was commissioned by local nuclear power plant unions to show state lawmakers their value.

One of the study's authors, Dean Murphy, said without carbon emission free nuclear power plants, utilities would turn to fossil fuels like coal or natural gas to make up the difference because the infrastructure for a renewable energy substitute for power on demand isn't ready.

"It will take quite some time for renewables to provide anything approaching a majority or much less all of our power. That’s a long way down the road," Murphy said.

The study noted that nuclear supplies 15 percent of the state's energy. But, Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE) spokeswoman Jessica Azulay said renewable energy sources are increasingly becoming more available to provide a bigger portion of New York's power needs.

"Our ability to ramp up renewable energy and put weatherization and energy efficiency retrofits in place has been underestimated," Azulay said. "People don’t realize how fast we can go about it."

Azulay called the findings propaganda. She said AGREE doesn't support subsidizing nuclear plants in the short or long term.

"We could dump millions of dollars into this industry over the next few years if they get the subsidies they are asking for and then these plants are going to retire and we’re going to be left with having not built the renewable replacement opportunity for them," Azulay said.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.