NE states face choice between nuclear power and greenhouse-gas emissions

New Jersey and Vermont — two of nine Northeast states negotiating a pact to cap greenhouse-gas emissions — rely heavily on nuclear-generated energy. Now, with the 40-year-long licenses of New Jersey’s Oyster Creek nuclear plant and the Vermont Yankee plant nearing expiration, the states could face dramatic spikes in their emissions if the facilities are shut down and fossil-fuel plants are called on to pick up the slack. Though the environmental community backs efforts to cut greenhouse-gas emissions, many activists also want to shut down the nuke plants; they argue that conservation and renewable energy sources could fill the gap. But some utility experts contend that’s unrealistic, noting, for instance, that most electric grids can only handle a limited amount of wind power because it’s intermittent and unpredictable. “I think the environmental community is confused right now in terms of where they want to go,” said Richard A. Valentinetti, director of Vermont’s air quality program.