US nuclear utilities beat emissions goals

24 July 2009

Two of the three companies recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions under its Climate Leaders program are nuclear utilities.


Peach Bottom (Exelon)
Peach Bottom - helping both Exelon and PSEG exceed their emissions targets (Image: Exelon)
The EPA said that Exelon and Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), together with Raytheon, "have found cleaner sources of energy, reduced energy consumption, increased production of renewable energy and retired old equipment, all in an effort to reduce their contribution to climate change."


Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA.


Exelon - one of the largest electric and gas utilities in the USA - joined the Climate Leaders program in 2003 and set a goal of reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 8% between 2001 and 2008. The EPA said that Exelon far surpassed this goal by reducing its emissions by 38% as of the end of 2008.


Among the measures taken by Exelon to reduce its emissions were to retire higher-emitting and less efficient fossil fuel plants and increase energy efficiency in its buildings. It has also increased the fuel efficiency of its vehicle fleet by adding hybrid and electric vehicles.


The company operates the largest nuclear fleet in the USA and the third largest fleet in the world.  Exelon's ten plants, with 17 reactors, represent some 20% of the US nuclear industry's power capacity and so about 4% of all the USA's electricity.


Exelon continues to work toward the goal of Exelon 2020 - A Low-Carbon Roadmap – its comprehensive strategy to reduce, offset or displace more than 15 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2020.


More nuclear helps PSEG


Meanwhile, PSEG pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 18% between 2000 and 2008. The EPA said that the company exceeded its goal, achieving a 31% reduction.


The company said that it reduced its emissions by expanding nuclear output and building new, cleaner natural gas plants. PSEG said the reduction was also due to a drop in coal output from 2007 to 2008. "Nuclear plants emit no carbon, and natural gas combined-cycle plants emit significantly less carbon than coal plants," the company said. It added that it did not purchase renewable energy credits or greenhouse gas offsets to help meet the target.


Eric Svenson, PSEG's vice president of environment, health and safety, said: "We've met and exceeded a number of carbon reduction goals over the last 15 years, and in the process, become one of the nation's leading low-carbon energy companies."


Among its power plants, PSEG operates the Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants in New Jersey and is a part owner of the Peach Bottom plant in Delta, Pennsylvania. It owns 100% of Hope Creek, 57% of Salem and 50% of Peach Bottom. Exelon owns the other 50% of Peach Bottom.


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson commented: "We congratulate the members of the partnership upon meeting their goals to confront climate change. EPA's Climate Leaders are some of the largest and most competitive companies in manufacturing, finance, information technology and other major sectors of the economy." She added, "They're proving that they can be both industry leaders, and leaders in the fight against clime change."