It may be, perhaps, symbolic that one of the first bills at the Legislature this year to get consideration in committee was the bill to lift the state’s moratorium on new nuclear power plants. A similar bill failed last session.
The moratorium has been in effect since a highly emotional debate in the early ’90s over Xcel Energy’s (then Northern States Power) request to increase the amount of nuclear waste that it’s allowed to store at the Prairie Island nuclear plant near Red Wing.
Few citizens testified on the bill today, however.
“Utilities don’t have a need for additional base power plants,” Bill Grant of the Izaak Walton League told a House committee. “No new jobs will be created. However, lifting the ban will create real risks. Utilities will assess ratepayers for plants that may never be completed.”
Victoria Winfrey, of the Prairie Island Community, said “no other community in Minnesota should have to live in the fear of a nuclear plant the way our community does… Until a permanent national solution for dealing with nuclear waste is found, we oppose lifting the moratorium on new nuclear plants.”
But a representative of the Red Wing City Council countered her. “The fact is nuclear moratoria are not the reason nuclear power is stalled and will continue to remain so,” Dan Bender said. “The problem is the federal government has not fulfilled its decade-long promise to remove the waste.” He called on the Legislature to direct the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government.
“The city believes in removing the moratorium, you should take the opportunity to engage in the debate about nuclear power,” he said.
William Heaney of the International Brother of Electrical Workers, said the bill won’t have “much practical effect” either way but he said he considers it symbolic to “get it off the books.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, “I have young kids and I’m concerned about their energy needs in the future… U.S. nuclear capacity will fall off and be non-existent by mid-century. Our energy needs are increasing by 25 percent. That need has to be met somehow. Where are we going to get that baseload power? We have a moratorium on coal in Minnesota as well. So now we have a moratorium on coal and nuclear power… My constituents want to be able to turn on lights and have warm houses.”
Peppin said lifting the moratorium doesn’t mean “we start constructing a new plant tomorrow.”
Rep. Jean Wagenius said Peppin is promoting the most expensive form of energy.
The bill was passed and moved to the Commerce Committee. One DFLer crossed over to vote with Republicans. Find the roll call vote here.