The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a Clean Power Plan proposal, which proposes to reduce nationwide carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels. The US Nuclear Energy Institute said the proposed rules recognize the valuable attributes of nuclear energy.

The Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposed program. The proposal provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situation.

The proposal also includes a flexible timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency — with plans due in June 2016, with the option to use a two-step process for submitting final plans if more time is needed. States that have already invested in energy efficiency programs will be able to build on these programs during the compliance period to help make progress toward meeting their goal.

An opportunity for nuclear

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said at a 2 June press conference that this strategy gives states the opportunity to shift their reliance to no-carbon sources like nuclear energy, noting that "our nuclear fleet continues to supply zero-carbon baseload power," according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Richard Myers, NEI’s vice president for policy development, planning and supplier programs, said, "For any strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, one thing is abundantly clear for every state in the nation — with nuclear energy it is feasible to meet the administration’s goals, and without it there is no chance at all."

He noted that, for more than half the states, nuclear power plants are their largest source of carbon-free electricity, adding, "We are pleased to see that EPA’s proposed rule recognizes the valuable attributes of nuclear energy, including the fact that it accounts for 63 percent of all carbon-free sources of electricity during production and is the only baseload source operating more than 90 percent of the time."

EPA will accept public comments on the proposed rule for 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register and will hold four public meetings the week of July 28 in Denver, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. The agency expects to finalize the rule by June 2015.