Even as many U.S. nuclear reactors reach the end of their estimated life spans, the country still gets nearly 20% of its power from these sites.
Now, new research claims that shutting them down could increase air pollution and cause more deaths because while nuclear power plants are considered relatively clean energy, many potential replacement sources for nuclear power are not.
Polluting energy sources that could fill that power gap could cause more than 5,000 premature deaths, researchers from MIT estimate.
“This adds one more layer to the environmental health and social impacts equation when you’re thinking about nuclear shutdowns, where the conversation often focuses on local risks due to accidents and mining or long-term climate impacts,” said lead study author
Lyssa Freese, a graduate student in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). She spoke in a university news release.
The United States has 92 nuclear reactors around the country. Many of these power plants have run for more than half a century. They are considered a low-carbon alternative to coal, oil and natural gas, according to the study.