Advocates for nuclear energy called on lawmakers to lift a long-standing moratorium on building new power plants in the state, during a hearing held at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
The bill from state Representative Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca) would remove a requirement that blocks the state from approving construction of new nuclear reactors unless a federal site exists to store the waste and it can be shown it would benefit ratepayers. The requirements were put in place in 1983, but Petersen told the committee that nuclear power has changed a great deal since then, with cleaner technology allowing spent fuel to often be reused in other facilities and reducing concerns about long-term storage. “Advanced nuclear energy is a clean, safe and affordable way to meet clean energy demands in Wisconsin, the United States, and around the world,” he said.
Lawmakers heard from a long line of industry experts, students, and construction companies during a nearly three-hour long hearing, with many arguing nuclear energy could help the state meet federal emissions standards and create new jobs. Public Service Commission member Mike Huebsch, who backed a similar bill when he was in the state Legislature, argued “the time has come for Wisconsin to enter the discussion of 21st nuclear power.”
While they did not testify during the hearing, Clean Wisconsin was among just a handful of those registering against the bill. The group’s Amber Meyer Smith said they feel the current nuclear moratorium is a common sense law that protects the environment and ratepayers, and argued the state should pursue cleaner and renewable technologies like wind and solar. She also countered claims that nuclear power is a zero emission and cheap technology, since uranium still has to be mined and the average cost per kilowatt hour is about 10 cents higher than wind or coal.
The state currently has two functioning nuclear reactors, located at the Point Beach facility in Two Rivers. Any proposed new power plant would still need state and federal approval.