Fiscal fallout: nuclear's volatile future in Ohio

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Nuclear power companies face financial meltdown. The president is championing a plan to save them. But, while that policy remains in development, Ohio communities that rely on reactors for good jobs and clean power are left in a volatile predicament.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) sees massive fallout potential in her district if plans to shutter reactors in Ohio come to pass. "For me, just to let these plants shut their doors, isn't a very responsible solution," she said, "there are serious national security issues, there are serious human transition issues here."

Kaptur said shutdowns would cost Ohio communities hundreds of high-paying jobs and tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Those taxes pay for a big chunk of education costs in places like Ottawa county.

She also said nuclear plant shutdowns jeopardize the nation's energy and defense security. Kaptur argues nuclear provides a stable power supply, and having plants online helps

First Energy - which runs the Davis Besse and Perry plants in Ohio - filed for bankruptcy a couple of months ago, struggling to survive on rates pegged to historically low natural gas prices. A recent report commissioned by industry advocate Nuclear Matters suggests that while low prices may drive nuclear energy out of the market, if that happens, consumers will pay more.

"When nuclear plants shutdown, they're replaced by something more expensive," said John Kotek of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Kotek said that's because nuclear plants in Ohio accept market rates. He said history shows more expensive options won't do the same if they fill a power vacuum.

Kotek said states like Ohio ought to ensure the market accounts for nuclear's stable production, ability to withstand weather, and its low carbon cost. "You would lose 25 years-worth of emissions improvements from wind and solar overnight if you lose those plants," he said.

Green energy advocates aren't clamoring for the government to float coal and nuclear production, especially given recent tariffs the administration placed on solar imports.

While the White House has promised to assist the industries, how, and what that would mean for Ohio's nuclear reactors and families is unclear.

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