Committee hears arguments from critics, advocates on nuclear banby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Advocates and critics of nuclear power sparred at the Legislature Tuesday as the Senate Energy committee heard testimony on a proposal to allow more nuclear power plants in Minnesota.
Marshall Cohen, from a nuclear energy trade group, said Minnesota can't really tell whether a nuclear plant would be a good thing unless the current ban is lifted. That's because designing a plant is expensive and time consuming.
"So long as there's a moratorium here, no one's going to have the slightest interest to say let's really dig in and talk to you about here's what we think and how would this work," Cohen said.
Cohen said nuclear power is cost-effective because plants can supply reliable power for 60 years or more.
Critics said with two-dozen plants already in line for limited federal loan guarantees, Minnesota should wait and see whether the new plants work out. They also wondered whether the government will ever figure out what to do with nuclear waste.
Lisa Ledwidge, with the Minneapolis-based Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, said nuclear plants often face cost overruns and construction delays. And she said as the country works to become more energy-efficient, the demand for electricity could be limited.
"In this context, a long lead time, capital-intensive power plant can be ruinous," Ledwidge said. "While wind farms are capital-intensive, they can be built quickly, typically in about two years. And if a wind farm is half-complete, you get half the electricity. If a nuclear plant is half-complete, you get nothing but the bills."
The committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on the bill to eliminate Minnesota's ban on new nuclear power plants.