Nuclear power bailout plan could mean higher costs for New Jersey residents

Hope Creek nuclear generating station in Salem County.

Hope Creek nuclear generating station in Salem County. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A bill that would provide an operating subsidy for three nuclear power reactors in New Jersey won approval in a joint Senate and Assembly committee on Wednesday.

Supporters of the bill say the subsidy is needed to save thousands of jobs in South Jersey. Public Service Enterprise Group says its nuclear power reactors could become unprofitable in two years and be forced to shut down if the subsidy is not approved. PSE&G operates Salem Unit 1, Salem Unit 2 and Hope Creek reactors at a single site in Salem County.

Ratepayer advocate Stefanie Brand worries the legislation could cost ratepayers over $300 million a year. She said there’s no evidence to demonstrate subsidies are needed.

“I’m not advocating that they close. I am advocating though for a system that does not allow a single company to hold us hostage in this way.”

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Steven Goldenberg with the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition urged lawmakers not to rush to pass the bill, saying the subsidy could cause big businesses to pay a half-million dollars more each year.

“This bill doesn’t address the issues responsibly or fairly. This is massive giveaway based on unwarranted fears that have been fanned by PSE&G,” said Goldenberg.

Senate President Steve Sweeney said the bill creates a review process for the state Board of Public Utilities to determine if a nuclear plant needs a subsidy.

“If what PSE&G is saying isn’t true, that there’s no problem, there won’t be any rate increase,” he said.

Members of the committee voted unanimously to advance the measure. Sweeney expects the full legislature will vote on it in the finals weeks of the lame-duck session.

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