No one wants to build a nuclear plant here? Then why change the law? | Wis.Community

No one wants to build a nuclear plant here? Then why change the law?

The party line from people trying to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act is that there's no reason to worry about the changes that would make it much easier to build a new nuclear reactor in Wisconsin.

No one wants to do that anytime soon, they say, so it's not a big deal.

Sen. Spencer Black, D-Madison, co-chair the Assembly clean energy committee. "stressed this week that the state only has a de facto moratorium on nuclear power anyway, since new plants could be built if they are deemed cost-effective and are supported by a federally approved site to store nuclear waste," reported. "But Black said reducing those standards won't spark a wave of new plants since Wisconsin's energy production is currently outpacing demand.

"Black added that by investing in energy efficiency, the state could push off the need for more power plants -- nuclear or otherwise -- for decades."

State Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), co-chair of teh Senate committee working on the bill -- and a nuclear advocate -- also downplays the nuclear changes.

"The likelihood of a nuclear power plant being built in Wisconsin any time soon is virtually nil," he told WisPolitics. "The economics just aren’t there, and the need just isn’t there."

If that's the case, why does the nuclear industry, the utilities, and State Rep. Jim Soletski (D-Green Bay). a former Kewanuee nuclear worker who is Black's co-chair of the Assembly committee, want the law changed so badly that they're willing to kill the bill if the pro-nuclear changes aren't included?

They clearly believe that at some point there will be new nuclear reactors built in the state, if the law is changed.

Black downplays the change and says it is possible to build a new reactor under existing law if conditions are met.

That's absolutely true, but one of those conditions is that there be a federal nuclear waste repository to handle the high-level radioactive waste the reactors produce. The change would eliminate that requirement, and open the door to long-term storage of the deadly materials next to the reactors. That's already happening at Point Beach and Kewaunee because there is no safe, permanent way to dispose of the waste, which is deadly for hundreds of thousands of years.

So here's a modest proposal: Since no one's in any hurry to build more nuclear reactors anyway, why don't we just leave the law the way it is? Maybe by the time someone wants to build a plant here there will be a federal waste repository. And if there's not, we can decide whether we want the waste to pile up in Wisconsin.

At least then we would be talking about a real issue, not a theoretical question. And if that were the question today -- Should we build more nukes and pile the waste up in Wisconsin? -- I'm confident the answer would be no.

Referendum, anyone?

In 1983, when people statewide were asked in a referendum whether they wanted a federal waste repository here, 89% said no. This time, we'd just be asking whether they want some smaller piles of the stuff at various locations in the state. If anyone thinks a majority of the people in Wisconsin would support that, let's ask them.


March 14, 2010 - 1:17pm