Jun 10, 2019

Michael Bloomberg open to backing nuclear plants in climate push

Michael Bloomberg speaks at the "Paris to Pittsburgh" film screening on Feb. 13. Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Bloomberg Philanthropies

Absent from billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million "Beyond Carbon" campaign to get off coal and natural gas is any mention of nuclear energy, America’s largest source of carbon-free electricity.

What they’re saying: An aide to Bloomberg told Axios the former New York mayor and climate advocate isn’t taking a "hard stance" on nuclear. "We’ll pursue all of the options available, including nuclear," the aide said. "If nuclear is determined to be the best alternative to coal, oil and gas, our work will support it. In other cases, there may be a different alternative worth pursuing."

The big picture: Nuclear power is controversial for several reasons — namely the lack of a permanent way to store its radioactive waste. But the energy source nonetheless provides more than half of America’s carbon-free power.

Where it stands: Numerous nuclear plants have closed or are set to close before their federal licenses require because their operators say they’re not economically sustainable. Natural gas often replaces them, raising greenhouse gas emissions.

One level deeper: Several states have passed or are considering policies to subsidize their nuclear plants. The Bloomberg aide cited Illinois and New Jersey as states whose policies Bloomberg supports, and one pending in Ohio — where the proposal also includes repealing some renewable-energy policies — that Bloomberg opposes.

Reality check: While a chunk of Bloomberg’s money could throw a temporary lifeline to some nuclear plants, the problem facing this sector is more systemic.

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