Nuclear energy production has become more widely discussed in recent decades. In fact, many people consider it to be somewhat mysterious, if not outright dangerous. This past Friday, I drove over 460 miles and toured both of our Ohio-based nuclear power generating facilities. What I discovered is that Ohio has had 74 years of safe, efficient, and environment-friendly nuclear energy production. These plants have been operating for the better part of 42 years at Davis-Bessy, near Toledo, and 32 years in the case of Perry, just east of Cleveland. Although this record is nothing short of impressive, market impacts and federal and state government regulations have led both of these plants to file for bankruptcy. Now the question for all of us to be asking is this: “How could their closure impact my daily life?”
Energy production is vital to us individually and collectively for several primary reasons. First, if energy prices are high, the cost to heat our homes, run our appliances, and charge our cell phones, will increase. The price of electricity extends outside of our physical homes, determining how much we pay for a hamburger at Wendy’s or for our groceries at the market. This financial strain affects all of us, particularly those who live from paycheck to paycheck. Second, if Ohio’s electricity prices are high, we as a state, become less attractive to businesses that would otherwise choose to locate or expand their facilities in Ohio.
These plants which currently employ over 4,200 Ohioans are some of the most efficient in the world at producing electricity. I had the opportunity to touch the electrical generator housing at the Toledo plant which is no bigger than an average-sized house and produces electricity for over 1.7 million homes across the state. Statistics and research shows that these plants generate reliable and clean energy regardless of temperature or conditions, with Davis-Bessy running upwards of 90% efficient and the Toledo plant often running at 100% efficiency. Refuel is the only time at which the plants are down and this occurs once every two years or so over a short period of time.
There were many other surprising discoveries to be made throughout the day. One of my primary concerns about nuclear energy production was the waste product that I have heard and read about. My visit to the plants showed that the reality of nuclear waste is not what many would have us believe. For example, the Perry, Ohio, plant has been in operation for over 30 years and the total amount of waste can be contained inside a 20 yard by 20 yard square section of a football field and is no more than 20 feet tall. This is an extremely small amount of waste for providing over three decades of energy generation in Ohio.
My other concerns with regards to nuclear energy generation, specifically its effect on the environment, were put to rest as I learned that these are zero-carbon emission plants, as they emit no greenhouse gasses. I discovered that the plumes of smoke rising out of the cooling towers are merely composed of steam from water, which serves to keep the reactor at a specified temperature. Because of this, people and wildlife live and thrive in close proximity to the plants. As only a small amount of the property is used for actual energy production, there are nature preserves teeming with deer and bald eagles on the grounds of both facilities.
Whether or not you believe global warming exists, we should all be concerned with ensuring that our electrical production is as clean as possible for this and future generations. Both of these plants have at least 20-40 years of life left in them and losing them would be detrimental to our local economy and to the great state of Ohio. If they close, it will cost all of us and put Ohio into debt due to energy importation.
The electrical generation mix on Ohio’s grid is currently about 30% from coal, 30% from gas, 30% from nuclear and 10% in other forms of generation. If these plants shut down, Ohio stands to lose 100% of our clean-energy production, 30% of our total electricity produced in-state, and over 4,000 citizens will lose their jobs. My first-hand experiences and conversations with the Ohioans and the navy veteran technicians who are now employed at this plant have convinced me of one very important fact: nuclear is a viable, safe, clean and reliable form of production and is important to our mix of electrical production in Ohio.
Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) is the state representative for the 85th District.