- A new MIT study indicates that retiring U.S. nuclear power plants could lead to an increase in burning fossil fuels to fill the energy gap, resulting in over 5,000 premature deaths due to increased air pollution.
- Nearly 20 percent of current electricity in the U.S. comes from nuclear power, with a fleet of 92 reactors scattered around the country.
- If more renewable energy sources become available to supply the grid by 2030, air pollution could be curtailed, but there may still be a slight increase in pollution-related deaths.
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology new study shows that if U.S. nuclear power plants are retired, the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas to fill the energy gap could cause more than 5,000 premature deaths.
Nearly 20 percent of today’s electricity in the United States comes from nuclear power. The U.S. has the largest nuclear fleet in the world, with 92 reactors scattered around the country. Many of these power plants have run for more than half a century and are approaching the end of their expected lifetimes.
Policymakers are debating whether to retire the aging reactors or reinforce their structures to continue producing nuclear energy, which many consider a low-carbon alternative to climate-warming coal, oil, and natural gas.
Now, MIT researchers say there’s another factor to consider in weighing the future of nuclear power: air quality. In addition to being a low carbon-emitting source, nuclear power is relatively clean in terms of the air pollution it generates. Without nuclear power, how would the pattern of air pollution shift, and who would feel its effects?
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