Is it time to give nuclear power a greater role in Minnesota’s energy mix?

The state Senate is considering whether to lift Minnesota’s moratorium on new nuclear power plants. Today’s Question: Is it time to give nuclear power a greater role in Minnesota’s energy mix?

  • Garyf

    Yes, it is time. We need a full sized power plant to serve Minnesota.

    For all the folks lauding the praises of alternative energy, that is great, we always need diversification, but wind will never make up more than 10-15% of our demand, and you still need the big power plants to run when the wind isn’t blowing or sun not shining.

    For all those folks who want plug in electric cars, just where do you think the juice is coming from?

    Did you know that because we don’t have enough big power plant capacity, that the south suburbs are full of diesel generators just waiting to fire up on peak demand? Shopping centers, hospitals, schools, casinos, office towers all have a big nasty diesel generator just ready to go. So, do you want diesel engines belching smoke on a hot summer day, or a new, modern, high tech, highly regulated nuke plant?

    It’s time. Stop the lawsuits, let the process begin.

  • sall e

    Absolutely not! Until there is a permanent storage solution for spent nuclear waste it would be very irresponsible to build any new nuclear powered plants. I do not anticipate that any other state will ever agree to take our dangerous waste. What will be do with the stuff we already have in “temporary storage”? We can all do more to conserve energy. Look at the response to the state’s rebate program for new, energy-efficient appliances!

  • Dianne

    No! The risks of the plants themselves and the storage of spent rods outweigh any and all benefits.

  • Steve the Cynic

    No. There’s still too much irrational fear about nuclear power. We should stick with technologies that people are irrationally confident of.

  • No way for several reasons.

    1. Safe storage of the waste

    2. There is not enough of the fossil fuel inputs required to make the plants especially at our current level of consumption/waste of those inputs.

    3. There could never be enough plants to provide us with enough energy to satiate our wasteful ways.

  • Dave

    Every week this comes up, and every week the predictable irrationality just bounces around inside this vacuum where distrust of experts is endemic and relative risk is irrelevant.

    Key point: We should build a repository, but it is not a technical prerequisite for expansion of the nuclear fleet. Dry cask storage is a safe, scalable semi-permanent storage solution. Eventually all those rods will be burnt in fast breeders, anyway. Nuclear opponents don’t really want a repository; they want a convenient stalling tactic.

    In any case new plants should be permitted or not on their individual merits. One shouldn’t have to desire to construct a new unit in order to see that prohibition is a contrivance. If nuclear really is bad for MN, then each effort to build a new plant should lose in the marketplace.

    Right now I doubt that a new large thermal plant (coal or nuke) in MN would be an attractive project to build or finance.

  • David James


    Nuclear power has proven itself to be a safe, reliable source of power generation that doesn’t generate green house gases. It’s time to put to bed some of the old canards repeated over and over by anti-industry activists. New development is being planned in nearly all developed countries. Blocking it in Minnesota only impacts it long term competitiveness without making the people or the economy more secure.

  • Susan

    Yes. Absolutely. People need to look at nuclear power from a place of education not a place of irrational fear. It has been 30 years since 3 mile island, there have been many advances and improvements. Wind and solar power are great but won’t totally fill the gap.

  • Klaus

    No. The deadly waste produced by nuclear power is unacceptable, especially considering that it stays so dangerous for so many thousands of years . We need to look at reducing our energy dependence in general, from coal, nuclear, natural gas, etc. I agree with Garyf (above) that alternative energies will not solve our problems, but they are one step in the right direction.

    It is not about increasing production, it’s about reducing demand. Americans can not continue their unfettered consumption/ waste production forever and if we don’t make conscious decisions to change our habits soon we will run into very serious repercussions.

  • bsimon

    Yes. All options need to be on the table. Perhaps the best solution is a ‘cash for clunkers’ type program, where the filthiest and/or least efficient carbon-fueled power plants (i.e. old coal plants) could be replaced by nuke power. Ideally, with modern reactors that use different fuel & produce waste of lower toxicity. At this point, solving the CO2 problem needs to be a higher priority than solving the nuke waste problem.

  • Josh D

    No nukes.

    How many more ways do we have to keep putting the burden of our current lifestyle on the future generations before we learn our lesson!?

    “There’s more forest here than we can ever cut down!, keep the saws running.”

    “Deficit spending in the trillions? We’ll pay it off when times are better.”

    “Too many bugs in the burbs? We’ll just spray them all with DDT, DuPont says its safe so it must be right?”

    “What do do with all this nuclear waste? We’ll just save it all up until there’s enough technology to send it to the moon. Who needs Yucca mountain!?

    When nuclear power can be run in a safe, clean, and sustainable manner (no toxic waste!), then by all means, bring it on. Until then, keep your plutonium in your pocket.

  • James

    YES, Safely.

    As we sit on the side lines “Liberally Pondering” nuclear power, people in other countries are kicking our butts. Toshiba of Japan has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors. They are small clean and could be placed in areas that need power, thus lower cost due to transmission line loss and no need for extensive power line infrastructure.


  • Lawrence

    It is probably going to be very difficult to get any community in Minnesota to agree to having a nuclear power plant in their backyard and to agree to having a nuclear waste dump site in Minnesota. Minnesota as a general rule vigorously protects local city, town, and village rights; therefore, the State Legislature is going to have to get a community to go along with any plan it has to build nuclear power plants. Furthermore, most of Northern Minnesota is tourist area cabins, lakes, woods, forests, hunting) and most of southern Minnesota is farmland; therefore, even if Minnesota allows a power plant to be built, the uproar among hospitality and agribusiness industries is likely to continue as the State tries to find a place to store the waste.

  • Andy R.

    As a Navy Vet. I spent six of my eight years of service on board the U.S.S. John C. Stennis. During that time I worked in nuclear power as a Cheif Machinery Operator in one of the two reactor plants that powered the ships operations. At that time the average age of a service person working in reactor department was 19 years of age. Through my two gulf tours we ported in many countries while also maintaining home ports in Norfolk and San Diego. We safely produced power through the couse of my enitre time spent on that ship. I understand the differences between civilian and ship board recator plants better than the majority.

    I would fully support a plant going up in my town. That said I do think that significant strides need to be made in the processing of nuclear waste materials. It is a shame that the stigma against nuclear power had prevented its proliferation. Had that not been the case perhaps strides could have been made to this point in terms of improving disposal processing.

  • Gordy Hoke

    Not until there is a solution for nuclear waste. It is wrong to leave garbage that is hazardous for over 10,000 years.

  • Jessica Sundheim

    Cradle to grave costs? Let’s be honest about that bit before we build anymore. I don’t see how passing on nuclear waste to not just our kids, but the entire planet (perhaps long after we’re extinct) is better than CO2 emissions.

  • Joey

    It is time to come up with a permanent solution to the problem of nuclear waste. Can we send this stuff into outer space or something? Nuclear waste storage facility on the moon, its employees sustained by polar ice melt? Personally, before I commit to producing massive quantities of deadly materials that will remain deadly for thousands of years, I come up with something like a plan for what I’m going to do with it. “We’ll play it by ear” doesn’t fly when it comes to nuclear waste.

    Once that’s taken care of, sure, let’s do it.

  • Charles

    When nuclear power was first proposed they said it was too cheap to meter, now it’s just too expensive to matter. Current cost projections for nuclear are $.15-.20/kwh. New wind is coming in at $.03-.07/kwh. It takes about two years to build a wind farm. The time to build a nuclear plant is 15-20 yrs and likely with huge cost overruns. And all the waste will must likely stay in Minn. forever.

    The idea that Nuclear power is Carbon free is a flat out lie. It takes almost as much energy to mine, process and build a nuclear plant as the energy that we get out of it over it’s life span. Then we have to decommission the plant and store the radioactive waste. Nuclear power never was economical and never will be. Then there’s the security issues.

    Forget nuclear power.


  • Phillip

    In terms of big picture energy we have to use all resources available – in addition to solar and wind, energy frugality, and for the time being nuclear power as well. Reprocessing the spent fuel significantly reduces the mass and radioactivity of the waste, which can then be re-inserted into the reactor. As with anything, more research is needed.

  • Greg Boles

    Though nuclear power has become more accepted of late, there is still a lot of ignorance in regards to the danger, both of producing the energy and of moving and storage of the waste. There has not been a plant built for such a long time that we have no accurate statistics of how much power our new technology will produce and how little waste will be produced. We have made great strides but people still get stuck on 30-40 year old rhetoric when they hear the word ‘nuclear’.

    My vote is for, but we still need to develop renewable power since uranium is a finite resource, just like oil and coal.

  • Paul D

    No. While the growing need for energy will be a thorny problem, there are solutions other than nuclear energy. I’d say that nuclear power remains “off the table” until someone DEMONSTRATES a safe solution to the inevitable nuclear waste.

  • Alice Cowley

    I agree with the writers who are against building nuke plants now. At least not until the nuclear waste can be safely recycled.

    Right now citizens and businesspeople should examine their use of electricity and search for ways to cut down on their extravagant wastefulness.

    If we can send people into space, I have faith that we can use our intelligence to find a way to help our world survive by wisely using our natural resources to save our planet earth for future generations to enjoy living.

    Sincerely, Alice wc

  • Lois

    Absolutely not!

    Even if it were safe, nuclear energy wouldn’t solve our energy crisis. First, the energy return on energy invested ratio for nuclear energy is much too low, and secondly, nuclear energy actually leads to very high carbon emissions.

    A useful measure for comparing energy sources is the energy return on energy invested (EREI). The higher the ratio, the better. Even drilling for oil has an energy cost; EREI for oil is now estimated to be between 11 and 18 and declining, as oil gets harder to get. For tidal energy, EREI is 87; for on-shore wind it is 28, and for solar it is 8 to 18, depending on type of solar. But for nuclear energy it is a miserable 3, which is only slightly better than for biodiesel and ethanol, which are 2, depending on what’s considered in the calculations.

    Thus nuclear energy is not very efficient. Nor is it as climate friendly as one would think. Nuclear energy emits 250 g of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. This compares to solar energy at 2-60 (depending on type of solar), hydro at 7-12, and wind at 5 g CO2/kw-hr. By this measure, nuclear is even worse than so-called “clean” coal, biodiesel and ethanol.

    The reason for nuclear’s poor ratio of energy return is because uranium mining is incredibly energy intensive, and because the extra measures required to transport and store uranium and nuclear wastes safely also require a lot of energy. The reason for nuclear energy’s disproportionately high carbon emissions is that storage of nuclear wastes requires a lot of concrete, and the process of manufacturing concrete emits a lot of CO2 during calcination of limestone.

    By neither of these two measures will nuclear energy solve our twin challenges of climate change and fossil fuel depletion. Wind, geothermal, tidal wave, hydro and solar all do much better. But even these energy sources won’t be enough unless we also make big investments in efficiency, conservation, and unless we learn how to live more simply. (How about not making some trips?)

    Money spent building nuclear power plants is money we won’t have to invest in those energy alternatives that will really make a difference.

    Source: The Ecologist Magazine

  • boba

    Not unless they are safe enough that they do not require Federal Loan Guarantees to build and Federally subsidized insurance, with legal restrictions on liability from accidents, to operate. Who is paying for the storage of their toxic wastes after 3010, 5010, etc. ???

  • Don

    Yes. It is past time. We must start to build nuclear to be ready for the future. Opposition to the technology will be a long drawn out process and we should get started. I want to plug in my new electric car and charge it. I want to work from home and send my results to my employer on the internet. And mostly I want to watch my flat panel TV (hopefuly in 3D) in ten years.

    I would like to direct your attention to Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors. These units are cheaper to build, cheaper to operate, and generate less waste than conventional uranium fueled units. Review the article in Wired magazine for a good overview.

  • stu klipper

    Definitely. For many years I mildly equivocated on the issue. I’d say I was 4/7ths in favor of it. These days I’d place myself at the 13/14ths thumbs upward level.

  • I support nuclear power 100%. If we’re going to generate electricity with a method that produces a toxic byproduct, I’d rather have it pumped into a cask than into the air I breathe, thank you very much.

  • Clif Brittain

    Three problems with nuclear power that make it a non-starter:

    1. The cost for nuclear power cannot be approximated. No commercial insurer would touch the potential liability, and even if they did, they could never retain the thousands of trillions of dollars in reserves such a risk would require. The only reason nuclear power generates a single kilowatt of commercial power is because the US government excuses the industry from this cost. If you don’t know the cost, how can you possibly set a fair price?

    2. The power plants can never be moved, dismantled or recycled. When they are done, they remain in place forever. Each of them is a Superfund site. We haven’t the political will to clean up existing Superfund sites. We should not be creating new ones.

    3. The most obvious and frequently stated reason is the generation of the nuclear waste. Right now, we’re just sweeping it under the carpet. Granted, it is in large, relatively safe containers, but the waste will outlast the containers. Unless you have a method to transfer and protect the waste in perpetuity, you have no business generating it.

    Long ago we thought the rivers were inexhaustible waste dumps. We now know they are not, but we’re still not protecting them. We thought the atmosphere was an inexhaustible waste and heat dump, but we still continue to ignore the reality of that ecology.

    How long can we ignore the legacy that presumes inexhaustible resources? Probably about as long as we value our own lives over those of our children.

  • Ethan

    I have no problem with building Nuke plants. But in the hierarchy of “good power” they come behind wind and solar.

    In my opinion, we should incentivize wind and solar, give no incentives to nukes, and disincentivize coal.

    To those who believe that solar and wind can’t meet our energy needs, you just aren’t thinking out of the box. Solar thermal can be used 24/7 by using stored heat, and more importantly, we can easily shift loads using smart grids to cool our homes and charge our cars when the wind IS blowing.

  • Charlie Rike

    Yes, Nuclear power has proven itself to be safe in France.

    They have perfected ways to recycle to the point that it is not dangerous.

    I have a Friend that worked for the French Atomic Energy Commission for many years & he says after they get done with the waste, you could put it in a coffee cup & leave it on his dinning room table & it would not hurt anyone.

  • Erik Homme

    No. As other posters have noted, nuclear power has a poor energy return on investment, produces a lot of greenhouse gases, creates a mess that can’t be cleaned up, and is too expensive. Look at the subsidies:

    US Dept. of Energy research & development expenditures, 2002-2007:

    $6.2 billion: nuclear

    $3.1 billion: fossil fuel (mostly coal)

    $1.4 billion: renewables (wind, solar, ethanol, biomass)

    Source: Gov’t Accountability Office (GAO)

  • Melanie Dunn

    NO! The costs are to High. For all the right reasons. Waste, Waste, waste for our children and our childrens children and our earth. Selfish to even consider it knowing how destructive the waste could be. And that is a fact.

  • BRoss

    The nuclear industry started, over half a century ago, as the most heavily subsidized experiment in technology development that this country has ever seen. 50 years later, the industry still requires huge risk subsidies, and the projected cost into the future is on an upward curve. Subsidies should not be going to well-established fully-ramped-up industries that are unable to economically sustain themselves in the market. We have a number of other options for meeting all of our power needs well into the future that are lower cost, have fewer financial or environmental risks, and are on a decreasing, rather than increasing, cost curve. Subsidies for developing technologies and market ramp-up assistance is fine (as was done for nuclear power when it looked like a promising alternative). But at some point it needs to end. Nuclear energy is well-established as a fiscal millstone to ratepayers and taxpayers.

    Why should we commit to an endless stream of government/taxpayer subsidies when we have a complete portfolio of other options? Particularly in Minnesota, where the utility companies have stated they have no real interest in or need to build new nuclear capacity.

  • Fred

    I had been a long term skeptic of nuclear as well but have come to the conclusion that it may be our only way out of the pending depletion of our fossil fuel resources not to mention the long term effects of burning fossil fuels. There is a new type of nuclear reactor (fast neutron reactor) that produces significantly more power, much less waste, waste with a shorter half life and waste that is not useable for weapons. Fast neutron reactors can also use up all the waste we have on hand without mining anymore uranium for possibly 100 years. Yucca Mountain in Nevada can hold all of the waste from these new types of reactors for a very long time.

    Solar, Wind and Biofuels are certainly part of the equation, especially in the short term but they unfortunately cannot supply the planets ever increasing thirst for electricity before we run out of fossil fuels, especially as we most likely move to electric vehicles.

    If we factor in the true costs of using fossil fuels, much less the fact that we will run out someday, a new type of nuclear power is the best and probably only major option on the horizon.

    I recently read a book by Minnesotan Joeseph Shuster called Beyond Fossil Fools. He takes a detailed look at our energy issues and suggests a way out of our pending energy dilemma.

  • Phil R

    Another no brainer. It is the only short term option to allow us time to develop alternate energy sources.

  • I see, I suoppse that would have to be the case.