Groups Criticize “Nuclear Mistake” Amid Praise for New York State’s Clean Energy Standard

We're reaching for renewables, don't chain us to dirty nuclear



August 1, 2016

Contact: Jessica Azulay, (315) 480-1515,

Tim Judson, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 212-729-1168,

Groups Criticize “Nuclear Mistake” Amid Praise for New York State’s Clean Energy Standard

Groups say state now responsible to ensure nuclear safety of the plants going forward

Albany, NY – The New York State Public Service Commission today approved the “Clean Energy Standard” policy that puts into place a popularly-supported requirement that that utilities must buy increasing amounts of renewable energy, until the state meets its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030. The proposal also includes an unpopular subsidy for economically struggling upstate nuclear power plants, the projected cost of which suddenly ballooned to almost $8 billion just three weeks ago.

The nuclear subsidies have drawn growing criticism and controversy with more than 15,000 people submitting comments opposed to nuclear subsidies and dozens of elected officials raising concerns.

When first proposed in January 2016, the Clean Energy Standard was mostly about supporting renewable energy and ensuring that New York would meet its goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030. A mandate that utilities buy renewable energy was approved today by the Public Service Commission and the move was praised by environmentalists across the state.

The Commission also approved a plan that promises nearly $8 billion dollars over 12 years to Exelon Corporation, the nation’s largest nuclear energy company, for its two struggling nuclear plants in upstate New York and for a third it is proposing to buy. This is twice the amount estimated to be invested in renewable energy through the Clean Energy Standard. The Indian Point reactors will become eligible to apply for subsidies in two years, and if they are included in the plan, the cost will soar to over $10 billion.

Jessica Azulay, Program Director with Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “Nuclear energy is not clean and it has no place in a Clean Energy Standard. We praise the Governor and the Commissioner for supporting renewable energy, but the nuclear subsidies are a mistake and a misuse of public money. These plants that will be kept open with this bailout are some of the oldest in the nation. They are dangerous and they should be shut down as soon as possible.”

Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Director of Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, said: “Today’s decision represents a $10 billion nuclear subsidy that will not being invested in renewables and energy efficiency. This means New Yorkers will no longer be able to choose 100% green energy, even if they want to. Unfortunately, the Public Service Commission is relying on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s lax oversight of aging failing nuclear facilities to protect public health and safety. This is a dangerous mistake.”


Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, said: “Governor Cuomo is making New York the first to cave to Exelon’s outrageous demands and to waste billions of dollars on short-term nuclear bailouts instead of accelerating the transition to renewable energy that is necessary to address climate change. This should be a cautionary tale for other states because what started as an unnecessary, but relatively small subsidy scheme for nuclear reactors has, as we predicted, ballooned into at least a $7.6 billion nuclear bailout that dwarfs the state’s clean energy investment and ignores the vital role energy efficiency can and must play in the state’s clean energy future.”


Barbara Warren, Executive Director of Citizens Environmental Coalition, said: “Governor Cuomo and the PSC have just decided to prevent the closure of aging nuclear plants that continually have problems, like the recent leak at FitzPatrick a few weeks ago, which spilled oil into Lake Ontario. Now every incident or safety concern at those nuclear power plants will become a problem that the state is going to have to deal with. We will now expect and call on the Governor to help ensure safety at these plants.”


Nuclear Subsidies Approved Amidst Controversy and Growing Criticism

In recent weeks, over 100 organizations and dozens of elected officials have raised concerns about the nuclear subsidies. They have criticized the rushed process, the lack of consideration for alternatives, and the uncompetitive nature of the nuclear subsidies, which will go to only one company with no possibility for renewables or efficiency to replace nuclear plants, even if they are more affordable for consumers.


More than 15,000 people submitted comments in the case that opposed nuclear subsidies and supported renewable energy. This was compared to 3,600 that were submitted in favor of the nuclear subsidies, a 4 to 1 margin against.


The plan provides a guarantee of $56 per megawatt hour to nuclear operators, a cost that will rise every two years to $68 by 2027. By comparison, wind can be purchased in the Northeast for $44 per megawatt hour and energy efficiency costs only $25-40 per megawatt hour.


This means that instead of the $20 billion that consumers will now spend on buying power from and subsidizing the upstate nuclear plants, they could have purchased the same amount of energy from windmills for over 30% less money. Better yet, they could have invested in energy efficiency to eliminate the electricity demand supplied by nuclear plants for nearly half as much money.


Locking in the high electricity costs to subsidize nuclear power will place large and growing burdens on all electricity consumers in New York, from businesses to local governments and residential ratepayers. Low-income consumers could be the hardest hit, and local governments and school districts could be forced to cut already strained budgets further. Some local businesses, from manufacturers to hospitals, could see their power bills increase by six to seven figures per year.

In determining to include nuclear power in the “Clean Energy Standard,” the Public Service Commission failed to consider or even acknowledge the environmental harm and public safety concerns inherent in nuclear energy. These include massive radioactive waste produced during uranium fuel production, routine radioactive emissions, radioactive spills and leaks, nuclear accidents, and high level radioactive nuclear waste. PSC based the subsidy rates on estimates of the social impacts of greenhouse emissions, but did not adjust for cost of the extensive negative impacts of nuclear power and radioactive waste, many of which New Yorkers could have to bear. Today’s decision also reversed a long-standing state policy that nuclear power reactors were not eligible for clean energy subsidies.



On Friday July 8th, the proposed subsidies for upstate nuclear plants in the NYS Clean Energy Standard jumped from $270 million to $7.6 billion, and a plan to lock in these subsidies for the next 12 years. Whereas the Indian Point reactors would have been barred under the previous plan, the proposal approved today opens a door for Indian Point to be included for subsidies. The plan approved today would put twice the amount of money into nuclear subsidies as it would toward renewable energy. The public was given only 10 business days to comment on the new version. Over 15,000 residents submitted comments and more than 100 organizations and elected officials submitted a letter asking a series of 8 crucial questions including questions about how this will increase electricity bills for residents across the state and if alternative plans for aggressively scaling up renewable energy with related jobs were considered. The groups noted in the letter that nuclear plants support just over 2,000 jobs, and that many of those jobs - approximately half - could remain for years to come during the lengthy shutdown process and dealing with the radioactive waste. Similar money in renewable energy and efficiency would create far more jobs.  The groups also noted in the letter: “Regarding energy reliability and fossil fuel use, the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), the agency responsible for ensuring a reliable electricity supply, has determined that the FitzPatrick and Ginna nuclear plants can shut down immediately with no reliability impacts and no need for new coal or gas power plants.”  An earlier letter to the Governor from over 100 organizations and small businesses challenged the justifications for the nuclear subsidies and offered alternatives to address concerns over job losses and greenhouse gas emissions.


Several NYS legislators have questioned the $7.6 billion subsidy to Exelon. NYS Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the NYS Senate Committee on Energy also submitted a letter to PSC Chair Zibelman asking thirteen questions of the nuclear subsidy on July 19th (copy and paste url link into browser):{36C022B1-510F-4EEB-8F83-0EEB5381D946}.


NYS Senator David Carlucci, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, sent a letter to Zibelman calling on the commission to deny the nuclear subsidy proposal and to consider alternatives, such as an agreement reached in California last month, to phase out nuclear facilities, replace them with renewable energy sources, and rehire nuclear workers for decommissioning and other utility operations. Sen. Carlucci also decried the characterization of nuclear power as “zero-emissions” and the PSC’s failure to consider its significant environmental impacts:


NYS Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation voiced her opposition to the $7.6 billion subsidy and asked PSC Chair Zibelman to grant the NYS Legislature oversight in the subsidy and allow for the Legislature to have 60 days to publicly comment (copy and paste url link into browser):{2833F27E-0A93-4582-A204-8F9541161DC6}. Assemblymember Jaffee said: “The Public Service Commission’s new proposal to impose a nearly $8 billion nuclear tax on average ratepayers is unacceptable, largely out of public view, and is being pushed with undue haste... I am gravely concerned about this development in a case that was represented to be about supporting large-scale renewable energy, but in fact is now about a bill to subsidize the nuclear industry, an industry that is neither presently, nor has ever been, independently financially sustainable but rather relies on taxpayers’ subsidies.”


Politico NY: Cost, fairness of Cuomo's nuclear subsidy comes under scrutiny -


Jessica Azulay of Alliance for a Green Economy in Alternet: New York's Governor Would Rather Prop Up the Nuclear Industry Than Invest in Renewable Energy -