PERRY, OH – Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino told a crowd of 300 residents Saturday morning he is expecting bad news about the future of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in the next several weeks.
The power plant, which first started operating in 1987, employs 700 people and generates $14 million each year in tax revenue. Cirino also said it supports about 500 other local jobs which service and support the plant. He added, the plant spends millions with local vendors every year.
FirstEnergy’s two nuclear plants in Ohio are currently under strategic review as the company determines a course for their futures.
Jennifer Young, spokesperson for FirstEnergy Corporation said the power plants can’t compete against the low prices of natural gas and are no longer profitable.
“In Ohio, our two nuclear plants produce 90% of the state’s carbon-free electricity and contribute more than $500 million each year to the state economy. Plants across the country are closing prematurely. However, due to market rules that don’t compensate them for all the attributes they provide,” Young said.
FirstEnergy announced in November 2016 it will be leaving the competitive generation business and is still deciding what to do with their nuclear plants. The company also operates a nuclear plant in Ottawa County.
“Possibilities include selling the plant or state or federal policy solutions that support their continued operation. Deactivation is also possible if another solution is not identified,” Young said.
At the rally, Cirino told residents they need to contact their state representatives and Governor Kasich to step in and pass legislation that will protect the two plants. Cirino says if the plants shut down, Ohio would lose its energy diversity. FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants currently produce about 15% of the state’s.
“If we were to go to 80% reliance in Ohio on natural gas and, or buying electricity off the grid, which would be very expensive from other sources, I believe that’s bad economics and bad policy,” Cirino said.
State Representative Ron Young is the co-sponsor of a bill that would charge households $2.50 a month and businesses a much larger fee in order to subsidize the plants. Young says he believes if the nuclear plants go offline, and natural gas is the primary form of energy, prices will rise.
“What happens when there’s a monopoly? Prices go up, prices go up. So all of our neighbors here surrounding us... Geauga, Cuyahoga etc., they ought to be extremely interested in Perry’s plight,” Young said.
Governor Kasich has not responded to our request for a comment on this story.