Wisconsin lawmakers want to lift moratorium on new nuclear plants
- Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are reviving an effort to lift the state's moratorium on new nuclear power plants, the Associated Press reports. The state doesn't allow new nuclear plants to be built unless a federal storage facility for nationwide nuke waste exists, and the plant will not burden ratepayers.
- State Rep. Kevin Petersen (R) introduced a bill that would eliminate both the nuclear waste storage and ratepayer language from the law, arguing the moratorium hurts Wisconsin manufacturers who need reliable energy sources as fossil fuels prices climb.
- Wisconsin currently only has one operating nuclear facility, and the Obama administration pulled funding for creating a centralized storage facility at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, which means nuclear plants currently store their waste onsite in casks and pools.
While many nuclear plants in the U.S. are facing retirement, Wisconsin lawmakers want to build more.
Rep. Kevin Petersen, defended his bill in a memo, stating that nuclear power is a clean, affordable power source that would help Wisconsin meet the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which requires the state to cut emissions by 41% by 2030.
"It is time to lift the moratorium," Petersen wrote. "Advanced nuclear energy is a clean, safe, and affordable way to meet future energy demands in Wisconsin, the United States, and around the world."
This isn't the first time Wisconsin lawmakers have tried to lift the moratorium, AP reports. In 2003, former Rep. Mike Huebsch (R) introduced a similar bill, and in 2007, the GOP proposed language in the state budget that included lifting the moratorium. In 2010, the Wisconsin Democratic party proposed lifting the ban as part of a renewable energy bill. All efforts failed.
But the fourth time could be the charm as news outlet reports that only the Sierra Club of Wisconsin has protested the bill so far, while a number of union chapters for engineers, pipefitters and construction workers support it. Floor votes for and against the bill won't happen until next year.
Nuclear plants across the nation are facing an uncertain future as they are squeezed by low natural gas prices and high operational costs. An analysis from three rating agencies said 11% of the United States' nuclear generation is at risk of early retirement, mostly from low gas prices. Even so, stakeholders hoped to keep the nation's nuclear fleet afloat under the CPP.
The finalized rule was a mixed bag for nuclear generation. Under the plan, states will receive credits toward emissions goals for nuclear plants currently under construction, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stopped short of incorporating calculations for nuclear plants into their baseline emissions rates for each state. Existing nuclear generation keeps CO2 levels lower than they would otherwise be, but the agency decided it would be "inappropriate" to use the existing generation to lower the carbon targets for each state.
The nuclear industry responded with disappointment, especially at the fact that relicensed nuclear plants – which would keep nuclear plants up and running for decades longer – will not be given CO2 credits to help states comply with the Clean Power Plan.
- AP via the St. Paul Pioneer Press Wisconsin Republicans push to lift nuclear plant moratorium
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