Attitudes toward nuclear power are changing in Europe and here in Massachusetts.
The Swedish parliament voted recently to change the country’s energy goal from 100 percent renewable to 100 percent fossil free, a shift that will allow nuclear power to count toward the target and open the door to efforts to bolster the nation’s existing nuclear plants and possibly add new ones.
“This creates the conditions for nuclear power,” Swedish Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson said in June. “We need more electricity production, we need clean electricity, and we need a stable energy system.”
With the war in Ukraine highlighting reliance on Russian fossil fuels, nuclear power has found more acceptance and even favor in a number of countries struggling to decarbonize, including the United Kingdom, France, and Finland.
The same is true in Massachusetts. The House and Senate leaders of the Legislature’s energy committee won’t even hold hearings in the same room these days, but they agree that preserving the region’s remaining nuclear power plants is smart policy.
“I definitely see a shift in thinking about nuclear,” said Rep. Jeffrey Roy of Franklin, the House chair of the committee and the sponsor of legislation that would authorize Massachusetts to procure energy from the Millstone nuclear power plants in Connecticut or the Seabrook units in New Hampshire.
Roy said such procurements would allow Massachusetts to claim the fossil-free power as its own in its accounting for decarbonization goals and keep the nuclear plants on solid financial footing going forward. Connecticut utilities struck a 10-year deal with Millstone in 2019.
“Attitudes toward nuclear have shifted in Massachusetts already,” said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington, the co-chair of the Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee. “I think Sweden is on to something.”
Unlike countries in Europe, many of which are considering building new nuclear reactors, Roy said he doesn’t see Massachusetts embracing the construction of a new plant.
“They do serve a useful purpose,” Roy said of the existing plants. “But I don’t foresee anyone constructing a new nuclear facility.”
Roy led a legislative delegation to visit the Millstone and Seabrook plants last year, and came away impressed with their security and safety measures, and their relatively small amount of nuclear waste, which can remain dangerous for thousands of years.
Vogtle 3, the first new nuclear power facility to come online in the United States in decades, began generating power in May in Waynesboro, Georgia. Vogtle 4 is scheduled to come online in 2024. The project, seven years late and $17 billion over budget, epitomizes the challenge of nuclear power.
Many countries in Europe are moving away from nuclear power even as the need for fossil-free energy is high. Germany shut down its remaining nuclear plants in April, a move that is forcing it to burn more coal to produce electricity.
German policy has been spurred along by nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986, and most recently Fukushima in Japan in 2011. German officials say nuclear power is neither green nor sustainable, and continuing to use it just delays efforts to embrace true renewable forms of energy.
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FROM AROUND THE WEB
Legislators representing Ludlow, where an attempt to ban controversial books from school libraries failed recently, filed legislation at the state level to block such efforts in the future. (Western Mass Politics & Insight)
Boston will offer tax breaks to developers who convert downtown office space to residential units as part of the city’s effort to jump-start activity in the area, which has remained moribund because of the post-pandemic persistence of work-from-home arrangements for lots of white-collar workers. (Boston Herald)
Boston City Council President Ed Flynn continues to hammer away at his dismay over recent actions of colleagues, asking for a review of all city employees who park in the City Hall garage to ensure they are licensed drivers. The unusual edict comes after City Councilor Kendra Lara crashed a car she was operating with a revoked license into a Jamaica Plain house. (Boston Globe)
Whitman selectmen narrowly voted to fly a rainbow flag on public property, sparking disagreement from city officials about its location and whether it would prompt other cultural or religious organizations to seek public flag placements. (The Enterprise of Brockton)
Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton prepares to open a new emergency department, one of the benefits of its affiliation with Mass General Brigham. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)
The non-profit Family Health Center, which laid off and furloughed dozens of staff members last fall and spent the spring on a hiring turnaround, is getting a $2.9 million grant to boost services. (Worcester Telegram)
With City Councilor Michael Flaherty’s decision to not to seek reelection, there are now eight candidates vying for the four at-large council seats, meaning there will be no preliminary election for the seats in September and the eight hopefuls will all face-off in the November final election. (Boston Herald)
Two Cape Cod organizations are partnering to create a first-of-its-kind neighborhood of rental homes for veterans on Martha’s Vineyard. (Cape Cod Times)
Higher-than-acceptable contaminant levels in Springfield’s water are “not an emergency, “ but the Springfield Water and Sewer Commission suggests consumers like pregnant women and young children consumers may want to limit the amount of tap water used. (MassLive)
The New York Times is shutting down its sports department and will rely for coverage on The Athletic, the sports publication it bought last year for $550 million. (New York Times) Dan Kennedy raises concerns. (Media Nation)
The bulk of Maine’s local news outlets, which operate under the umbrella of Masthead Maine media group, will be sold to the nonprofit National Trust for Local News. (Boston Globe) Dan Kennedy says the news about news doesn’t get any better than this. (Media Nation)
The San Diego Union Tribune is sold to Alden Global Capital. (Union Tribune)
James Lewis, who was long a suspect, but never charged, in the 1982 poisoning death of seven people who took Tylenol laced with cyanide, died in Cambridge at age 76. (Boston Globe)