No one who understands power production was surprised Tuesday when the Environment Minnesota Research & Policy Center identified Xcel Energy’s Sherburne County coal-burning plant the state’s biggest carbon polluter and No. 21 in the nation. The “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants” report said “Sherco” produces as much global-warming pollution as 2.7 million cars do in a year.
Of course, Sherco leads Xcel’s fleet in terms of size, steam production, generation capability and coal consumption. Its three units produce 2,400 megawatts by burning 30,000 tons of coal a day.
Compare that to Xcel’s Prairie Island nuclear plant, which generates 1,100 megawatts but doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. Spent fuel, the No. 1 environmental complaint against nuclear power, could be recycled — if our government allowed.
Some people are using the report to champion the need for more solar and wind power. Good.
Let’s also be realistic. Nuclear plants consistently and continually provide one-fifth of U.S. electricity and about two-thirds of the nation’s low-carbon energy — and they do so whether it’s day or night, windy or still, cloudy or bright.