ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A move to undo Minnesota’s 17-year-old ban on new nuclear power plants easily cleared its first committee Tuesday as Republicans who run the Legislature make the proposal a priority.

Rep. Joyce Peppin’s bill passed the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a 10-6 vote, with backing from groups including the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council. The 14-line bill would erase a single sentence of state law prohibiting the Public Utilities Commission from allowing construction of new nuclear plants.

“It’s just striking one line,” said Peppin, R-Rogers. “We’re not starting the construction of a plant tomorrow.”

Minnesota has two existing nuclear power plants near Red Wing and Monticello.

Peppin and other supporters of the bill said the change would allow utilities to consider nuclear power as they make long-term plans. Peppin said renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power aren’t reliable enough to fulfill all the state’s long-term needs.

“Renewables alone cannot get us to where we need to be,” she said.

Even if the proposal sails through the Legislature, the 1994 moratorium on new nuclear power has support from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who pledged to back the current law as a candidate.

Spokeswoman Katie Tinucci said Dayton hasn’t said whether he would veto the bill.

During the hearing, opposition came from environmental groups and Democrats on the panel who said they’re concerned ratepayers will end up covering the cost of developing a new nuclear power facility.

A firsthand perspective came from Prairie Island Indian Community Tribal Council president Victoria Winfrey, whose community lives about 600 yards from Xcel Energy’s nuclear plant near Red Wing. Winfrey said her community opposes any moves to undo the current moratorium and still is waiting for the federal government to find a place to store spent nuclear fuel, including thousands of tons near their homes.

“The amount of hazardous waste that must be stored in our local community will only grow,” Winfrey said.

Peppin’s bill now heads to the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee.

A Senate version sponsored by Majority Leader Amy Koch awaits its first hearing before an energy, utilities and telecommunications panel.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (14)
  1. Joe Beaver says:

    It may be better to go with renewable energy first. I doubt we would have to worry about a terrorist messing with a wind farm.

  2. Phid says:

    It’s about time.

  3. Alex says:

    Renewable energy is great, but its not dependable enough. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, and we can’t store energy on that large of a scale. When we run out of coal to burn we need something to take its place, otherwise, there are going to be a lot of dark houses in the U.S.

  4. Todd says:

    The largest expense of nuclear energy is the cost of constructing those power plants. Contributing to these highs costs is the inability to pre-charge rate payers for construction. To lower those costs they will need to charge the customer a small fee ahead of the new power plant construction at a time when energy costs are already expensive and also at a time when many consumers are struggling financially. There really is no alternative to building a nuclear power plant that does not include a rate hike to finance it. That is what this bill is about. Joyce Peppin said today on Facebook that she was “Pleased that my bill to remove the moratorium on the future construction of nuclear power facilities” has passed the Finance Committee and is on to the Commerce Committee. Lifting the moratorium on new power plants so that it will allow utilities “to consider nuclear energy as they plan for the future” is another way to say they will require a rate increase and that is what this is all about. As a consumer I doubt that it is at all true I will win if they build more nuclear power plants: I seriously doubt that my 2-bedroom house energy bill will end up cheaper from a utility company that in the future uses nuclear energy that I would be forced to pay for?

  5. Alex says:

    Todd, I hear where you’re coming from but this is something that NEEDS to happen. Its not necessarily a question of rates in the future, if we don’t start getting ourselves weened off fossil fuel plants there simply isn’t going to be enough energy to go around (which actually will then affect your rates). We can’t sit around and wait for a ‘magic pill’ to come along and solve all our problems (whether that’s fusion or more advanced/efficient renewable sources, etc…)

    Estimates of when we can’t meet demand vary (some say we ‘run out’ of oil around 2030ish, and interestingly enough others predict world war before that–>what happens when you have no resources and your neighbor does?) We need to set things in motion soon if we want to maintain our way of life otherwise we’re going to be scrambling and sacrifices will have to be made

    1. Todd says:

      Good point Alex. Seriously. I bet most people would prefer some sort of renewable energy rather than support our dependency on fossil fuels. Is nuclear power the path to take? It makes sense that we take the trip to another form of energy production than the path we are on. My point was that those pushing this bill are giving the impression that it will be less expensive for the consumer when it is not and will not be less expensive for us. A rate hike to build and license a power plant at some unknown time in the future without actually building one is much different than actually building one.

  6. Alex says:

    I see what you’re saying and that’s the other huge problem with this issue, the way our government and utility companies go about addressing it. A professor of mine told us once about how he was an adviser for a politician whose response to this issue was that he agreed with what (what my prof said) needed to be done but it was career suicide to do anything about it.

    At least this is a step in the right direction…sort of 🙂

    1. Todd says:

      Wisconsin legislature last year prevented lifting the “nuclear moratorium” in their state because it did not pass the two most important criteria that had to be met to construction of a nuclear power plant. That is that they needed to provide a waste repository for radioactive waste created by Wisconsin reactors, and show that a nuclear plant is economically advantageous to ratepayers “in comparison” to alternatives. Unless nuclear power can pass these common sense requirements, nuclear power plants should not be built in Minnesota as well.

  7. Todd says:

    Also, and I will stop after this, a rate increase by an irresponsible company that does not provide transparency as to where this money would go should be a big concern for all of us. We may get the rate increase yet never see a nuclear power plant. Last spring the Office of Energy Security raised multiple objections to a previous rate increase. It said Xcel overestimated its operations and maintenance costs, and shouldn’t include so much for corporate aircraft expenses, pension funding increases and increased provisions for bad debt, among many other things. Anyway…

  8. Alex says:

    Very good point, I agree. I think where we start to butt heads a little is in where you mention “in comparison to alternatives”. There just aren’t any alternatives that are feasible/reliable right now on that scale. It’s just not as easy as lets throw in a bunch of wind farms and solar panels on the grid’ and thats that.
    Check out the link below, that’ll give you an idea of how we generate our power (notice 80% is non-renewable):

    Though renewable here is shown as almost as big as nuclear, about half of that power generated is from intermittent sources (i.e wind/solar) or hydro…I think you’d have issues if you tried to scale up hydro that much…though there is promise in geothermal, which maybe some of these resources should be put towards.

    I feel like I’m starting to ramble…I’ll back it off as well….

  9. Mike says:

    Nuclear power is renewable, its just that our government chooses no to recycle the waste for some dumb reason… Look at France, they have far more nuclear power plants than any country in the world, yet they have no waste problem because they recycle the spent fuel into new fuel rods.

  10. Dave says:

    I thought Obama favored nuclear power. Why won’t the Dems follow their Leader?

  11. Bob says:

    This if the best debate I’ve seen on here yet bravo

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