Bill lifting nuclear power plant ban receives hearing
ST. PAUL -- A Senate committee will decide Thursday if it supports lifting a Minnesota ban on new nuclear power plants.
Supporters said nuclear power provides a clean, cost-effective option that would create hundreds of construction and permanent jobs. Opponents cited the cost of construction and nuclear waste storage concerns.
The committee is expected to debate the issue and vote Thursday.
The Senate Energy and Utility Committee heard testimony as the nuclear power issue attracts national attention as a potential solution to the nation's pending energy shortage.
Proponents add that lifting the ban doesn't commit the state to building plants.
"It is time to allow clean, safe and reliable new nuclear power plants to be considered when the commission looks at how Minnesota's future energy needs will be met," said Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, the bill's sponsor.
Opponents cited the cost of building the facilities and the marginalization of renewable energy sources as risks, along with the continued concerns about disposal.
Victoria Winfrey, president of the Prairie Island Tribal Council, expressed concerns about building new plants when waste from existing facilities hasn't been dealt with.
If the Prairie Island plant near Red Wing is relicensed for 20 years, she said, that would result in nearly 2,500 tons of nuclear waste being stored there for generations.
"The future of the nation's nuclear waste disposal program remains very much in doubt," she said.
Red Wing City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlman expressed similar concerns. If Minnesota wants to move forward, she said, the state needs to put together a commission to deal with the issues and push the federal government to do so as well.
"Minnesota now needs to have a Plan B," she said. "Relying on the federal government has not resulted in anything."
Andrew Tellijohn works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.
Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.