The Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to end a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants. The bill passed on February 2 in bipartisan fashion by a vote of 50-14.
The bill now moves to the House, which appears likely to approve the measure. The bill’s fate becomes more uncertain after that, as Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has opposed approval of new nuclear power plants.
A 1994 law prohibits the construction of new nuclear power plants in the state. The Minnesota Senate voted in 2009 to end the moratorium, but the House failed to approve a similar bill. As a result of the November 2010 elections, however, the political landscape has changed and nuclear power now has far more support in both houses of the Minnesota legislature.
Keeping Options Open
No utilities have expressed interest in building new nuclear power plants in Minnesota in the near future, but proponents of lifting the moratorium say it is important to have all options on the table.
“This bill offers hope and options for the future energy needs of Minnesota,” said Sen. Mike Jungbauer (R-East Bethel), who chaired the Senate Energy Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, which first the approved the bill. “Most people outside the state don’t know that we’ve had this antiquated moratorium in place for 17 years that has prohibited consideration of nuclear as even a possibility of future power for our state. Meanwhile, Minnesota has really fallen behind on working toward realistic solutions for base load energy needs for the coming generations.
“Lifting the ban will allow our electricity providers and our Public Utilities Commission to consider all options when planning for the future,” Jungbauer explained. “Windmills and solar are great and have their place in the overall picture, but [they can only] supply an extremely small portion of our energy needs. They are not reliable sources of baseload power that business, industry, and our citizens can rely on for growth in the future.”
D. Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is a Milwaukee-based economist.