Project Report:
Saving Nuclear Power Plants from Premature Closure
- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates the effect of the global financial system and/or the monetary system in fostering a sustainable economy.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.


The climate can be saved but only if we save nuclear plants from premature closure. Nuclear can be saved, but only with immediate, aggressive action. Environmental Progress (EP) is seeking support to build upon its success bringing the clean energy crisis to international attention, mobilizing fresh voices, and moving sensible policies to the finish line. As presidential transition teams start crafting their energy and climate priorities this fall, and states continue to seek solutions to nuclear plants at risk of early closure, EP is seeking to significantly step up its research, organizing and policy efforts.

Original EP analysis has sounded the alarm that the world could lose up to 2x more nuclear than it gains by 2030.


Update March 29, 2017:

Thank you again to the Alex C. Walker Foundation for your support of Environmental Progress, a project of Policy Impact.

In our initial project proposal, we defined three key metrics against which EP would evaluate its work:

Policy change. Is EP making progress to saving existing nuclear plants and build new ones?
Issue framing. Are reporters and policymakers accurately describing energy and environmental realities? Is EP making news and framing debates?
Elite and popular opinion on nuclear. Are elites and other key audiences coming around to understand the need for nuclear? Are concerns about nuclear being answered and addressed?

EP made huge gains in terms of all three metrics in 2016 and continues toward achieving its goals in 2017. We helped bring about major policy changes in New York and Illinois, are continuing to shape the discussion on the future of nuclear, and are engaging growing numbers of elite and other key audiences on nuclear issues. Here is a look at our victories in New York and Illinois, along with some of what is coming up next for EP through the duration of our grant term.

Big Victories in New York and Illinois

Our biggest achievement in 2016 was helping to save 20 percent of U.S. nuclear power that was at risk of being replaced with fossil fuels. This includes victories in Illinois and New York, where we faced strong opposition, including by some groups that are funded by energy companies with a financial interest in closing nuclear plants.

We worked tirelessly to give expert testimony, counter misinformation by anti-nuclear groups and politicians, challenge anti-nuclear groups for their hypocrisy, and expose these organizations’ myriad conflicts of interest. EP organized open letters signed by over 60 climate scientists and environmental leaders to support state legislation that helped save nuclear in New York and Illinois.

New York’s Clean Energy Standard and similar legislation that helps protect Illinois’ nuclear plants are big victories, but we still have a long way to go toward protecting and expanding nuclear. The US could lose more reactors over the next 13 years, and EP is already working on saving nuclear in the next state battleground: Ohio.

Saving Ohio’s Nuclear Power

Ohio is currently considering legislation to help financially support its ailing nuclear power plants, which currently provide 90 percent of the state’s clean power. The closure of the Davis-Besse and Perry plants would increase Ohio’s carbon emissions the equivalent of adding up to 3.3 million cars to the road.

To help legislative efforts, EP has been working on an analysis of the state’s energy policies, along with an accompanying report on the potential health and environmental impacts of nuclear closures in the state, and has conducted extensive archival research into the history of the war on Ohio’s nuclear power plants. An open letter is in store as well, similar to those EP organized for New York and Illinois.

Futures of Nuclear Meeting

In April 2017, EP will be hosting the first-ever Futures of Nuclear meeting in its Berkeley headquarters. The event will bring together a diverse group of environmental, industry, scientific, and intellectual leaders to address the crises and opportunities facing nuclear power.

The purpose of this meeting is to develop a unifying and realistic vision for nuclear. While nuclear advocates have been advancing certain elements of a broader agenda, such as saving existing nuclear plants or pushing for the development of non-light water reactors, the nuclear community has yet to articulate a coherent agenda that can move the industry out of its current challenges to a point at which nuclear is deployed significantly enough to mitigate climate change. We will have an honest conversation about nuclear’s challenges and opportunities, and will create a conversation that allows individuals to both speak for and transcend their particular interests.

ANS Keynote Address and Other Invitations

Michael Shellenberger has become a go-to expert on nuclear power and has been invited to speak at several important events in 2017.

At the end of May, Michael will be a keynote speaker at the annual conference for the Environmental Studies Association of Canada (ESAC). ESAC is Canada’s leading association of professional environmental researchers.

Michael will also be delivering the keynote address at the American Nuclear Society’s Annual Meeting in June. The theme of this year’s meeting is “Innovating Nuclear Power.” Michael will be delivering an impassioned message about the need for the nuclear industry to embrace and speak out on behalf of nuclear power’s transcendent moral purpose.

Later in the year, Michael will speak at the International Atomic Energy Agency's quadrennial Ministerial Conference on nuclear power in the 21st century. The objective of the conference is to facilitate high-level dialogue on the role of nuclear power in meeting future energy demand and contributing to sustainable development and mitigating climate change, as well as to discuss key issues related to the development and deployment of nuclear power.

Opening of EP’s Headquarters

EP’s headquarters in Berkeley is now open to everyone and includes a gallery, gift shop, and event space. We created EP to be base camp for the global pro-nuclear movement. All are invited to visit us — including our opponents. As advocates, we want our space to embody our three core values: caring, fairness, and openness. Every Friday after work we open up our gallery level to anyone who might be curious or care to learn more about what we’re doing.

EP has built up a strong team of permanent staff and 2017 summer fellows, and our community continues to grow.


We are investigating why nuclear plants are treated unfairly by state and federal policies, and how that can be remedied.

We are investigating how the financial system can be reformed to allow for nuclear plants to compete on a level playing field.

We are exploring how discriminatory policies and the lack of a price on carbon distort markets.

We are exploring and developing market-based solutions to protecting nuclear, clean energy and the climate.


EP is seeking funding to turn the crisis facing nuclear into an opportunity for clean energy and climate action. The challenge is not just in the US. Today the world is at risk of losing four times more nuclear over the next 15 years than it lost over the last 10. We have a plan to stop the closures and, over time, win policies that expand nuclear power, not just in the US but also in Europe and Asia.

Amount Approved
$20,000.00 on 8/17/2016 (Check sent: 8/30/2016)

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Posted 7/29/2016 12:15 PM
Updated   5/11/2017 11:46 AM

  • Nonprofit

EP's Berkeley headquarters.

EP's Berkeley headquarters, as seen from the second-story gallery space.

EP's proposed vision for the future of nuclear.

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Students and activists protesting to save Illinois nuclear power plants at an anti-nuclear group ELPC headquarters in Chicago in October 2016.

March to save Diablo Canyon from premature closure
EP and other environmental groups participate in the historic Rally and March for Environmental Hope! from San Francisco to Sacramento in June 2016.

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