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< Weekly Recap | Main | The return of the Sviggum >

Going nuclear?

Posted at 12:04 PM on March 31, 2008 by Michael Marchio (2 Comments)

Sen. Hann (R-Eden Prairie) sounds like he wants to do it. The subject came up when the Senate took up SF3337, Sen. Yvonne Prettner-Solon's bill that would require a strategic plan to reduce greenhouse gases. Sen. Hann made the argument that the bill should include language repealing the prohibition of building new nuclear power plants.

He didn't offer his suggestion as an amendment, although earlier this year, Sen. David Senjem did introduce a bill, SF2630, that would end the prohibition, and the Governor indicated earlier this year that he'd supporting lifting the ban too.

It's a debate that we've seen growing in recent years, with the increased concern about global warming and one of its biggest causes, coal-fired power plants. The biggest source of energy in Minnesota is currently coal-fired plants, at 61 percent, and the two nuclear reactors in Monticello and Prairie Island providing 26 percent. Take a look at the breakdown here.

By now, most people have probably heard about the pros and cons, but here are a couple to chew on, courtesy of some environmental experts at the Greenwash.


1. A carbon footprint that's on par with other renewables
2. Reliable electricity


1. Higher cost than the alternatives
2. Solutions for waste are totally lacking
3. A host of security problems, including terrorism and accidents
4. Planning, permitting, and building a plant takes an eternity, which means no quick response to more and more pressing climate changes
5. Centralized generation exacerbates problems we already have in getting electricity from where it's created to where we need it, and don't support distributed generation that would create more resilient infrastructure
6. Mining fuel is environmentally destructive
7. Uranium (and other nuclear fuels) are not infinite... will we someday find ourselves at "peak uranium" if we grow dependent upon it for our power generation?

Here's another list of pros and cons from WikiAnswers. Like the Greenwash, it's skewed towards the con side, but worth reading.

While the problems of waste, and especially security concerns in this age of terrorism are worrisome in a Michael Bay-movie kind of way, the environmental costs of continuing to use coal as the primary electricity source might be just as problematic in the long term, and it seems to the Commish like this is an issue that we're going to be hearing more about in coming sessions.

Sen. Hann raises a good point, but then you have the trouble of deciding where to put it. I would guess that more than a few lawmakers would feel a bit NIMBY about a nuclear power plant moving into their district. How about it, MFL managers? Is nuclear power something to consider, or should it be off the table?

Comments (2)

one thing to keep in mind - not all pollution is created equal. In considering any kind of fuel source, one needs to assess all of the above points. But ... greenhouse gases are not the only by-produce. Coal plants produce mercury, particulates, SOx. Anyone who thinks coal-mining is 'environmentally friendly' needs to go down to central West Virginia.

Posted by GopherMPH | March 31, 2008 9:34 PM

Good call, GopherMPH. Coal seems to be the worst of all possible options, both because its dirty, and because our country has such vast reserves of it. Its kind of like having the cookie jar right next to your desk - too much of a temptation rather than invest in cleaner methods.

Posted by Michael Marchio | April 1, 2008 10:49 AM