Natural gas and other conventional energy sources are replacing power generated by shuttered nuclear reactors, according to federal energy data.
Despite numerous claims that solar and wind power would replace nuclear sources, both wind and solar combined have historically replaced only a small fraction of shuttered capacity. The same pattern is expected to continue as companies plan to retire several more nuclear plants in the next few years, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
EIA found that when nuclear power plants shut down, typically more than half of the electricity they generated was replaced by cheap natural gas or even coal power.
EIA pointed to a nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, which closed last week. Large-scale layoffs will begin next year, with 400 people getting terminated over the next 20 months.
The nuclear power plant cranked out electricity for 43 years, and was licensed to continue doing so for another 17, but the plant became so uneconomical that the company decided to pay the $1.5 billion in decommissioning costs over the next 60 years.
Paying the decommissioning costs, no matter how steep, is still comparatively cheaper than competing against subsidized wind, solar power or cheap natural gas.
America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially operating nuclear power plants, according to the EIA. The average plant employs between 400 and 700 highly-skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.