The US nuclear industry contributes $60 billion annually to gross domestic product, as well as creating almost half a million jobs and cutting carbon emissions, according to a new study commissioned by pro-industry organization Nuclear Matters.
The study, which was carried out by economists at The Brattle Group, also found that nuclear energy helps keep US electricity prices low. Without nuclear power it estimates that electricity market price could increase by 6%.
The environmental benefits of nuclear power also have economic ramifications. The study estimates that energy generated from nuclear plants prevents 573 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is worth an additional $25bn annually based on the US government's estimated value for the social cost of carbon. It also avoids 650,000 tons of NOx and SO2 emissions annually, together valued at $8.4 billion using the National Academy of Science's estimates.
Finally, the study found that the US nuclear industry accounts for 475,000 full time jobs (direct and secondary), and provides $10bn in federal revenues and $2.2bn in state tax revenues annually.
"The economic and environmental benefits of nuclear energy are often undervalued in national and state energy policy discussions," said Dr. Mark Berkman, co-author of the report and a principal at The Brattle Group. "It is even more critical to consider the significant value of U.S. nuclear plants in a landscape where several factors threaten some nuclear facilities and could diminish the industry's contribution to our electricity supply, the economy, and the environment."
The USA has 99 operating reactors spread across 62 sites. Nuclear energy provides almost 20% of the country's electricity. However, some US reactors are at risk of being prematurely shut down due to a confluence of economic and policy challenges. Five have been retired over the last few years, including Vermont Yankee, which was permanently shut down in December (see Circles of pain around Vermont Yankee closing).
Nuclear Matters co-chair, former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) said the report stresses the need to address the underlying challenges associated with premature nuclear energy plant shutdowns to ensure that Americans can continue to "reap the indisputable benefits" that the plants bring to the table.