The Prairie Island nuclear plant at Red Wing, Minnesota, on the Mississippi River. Nuclear power advocates want to repeal the state’s 15-year-old ban on new nuclear plants.
The state that enacted one of the nation’s most farsighted clean energy laws in 2007 may be a battleground over nuclear power in 2010. A coalition of interest groups wants to repeal Minnesota’s 15-year-old moratorium on new nuclear plants. Like pro-nuke interests elsewhere, the Minnesota coalition is arguing that nuclear power is a clean solution to climate change problems.
The 2007 Next Generation Energy Act mandates that Minnesota generate 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. It also sets a state goal to reduce electric demand 1.5% per year through efficiency and conservation programs. The law defines renewable sources as solar, wind, small hydro, hydrogen and biomass.
But nuclear power advocates want to add nuclear energy to the mix. The so-called Sensible Energy Solutions for Minnesota says it includes business, labor and environmental leaders, although no organized environmental groups support the repeal. A board member of SESM says calls nuclear “the most sensible and carbon-free base-load electricity source in existence.”
In November, two members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, including Democrat Tim Walz, urged the state legislature to repeal the nuclear plant moratorium. Clean Water Action rejected the call, noting that construction of a new 1,000 MW nuclear reactor would cost over $7 billion and could take 10 to 20 years, use mammoth amounts of water and produce radioactive waste.
State Rep. Bill Hilty, an architect of the Next Generation Energy Act, was also skeptical of the repeal. “As soon as someone anywhere on the planet demonstrates that it’s possible to build one of these new-generation reactors on time, on budget and at a reasonable cost to ratepayers that’s the time we should be considering it in Minnesota,” he said. “But Minnesota does not need to be the nuclear guinea pig.”
In signing the 2007 Next Generation Energy law, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, “The best time to have taken action on energy issues would’ve been 30 years ago. The second best time is right now. The nation has been asleep at the switch, but here in Minnesota we are kick-starting the future by increasing our nation-leading per capita renewable fuel use, boosting cost saving measures and tackling greenhouse gas emissions.” The following year, he called for a repeal of the nuclear plant moratorium.
More recently, Pawlenty, who is testing the waters for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012, has waffled on global warming, questioning the science behind it, and has backed off his previous support for a cap-and-trade program.
Photo credit: Minnesota Department of Commerce.