Monday, November 10, 2008

That Darn Ban! Wisconsin Rethinks Nuclear Energy

wisconsin_dairy_farm_400 Wisconsin has been rethinking its ban on new nuclear energy plants for awhile now:

Wisconsin's 24-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction is wrong.

The foundation for removing the moratorium has already been laid. Earlier this year, the Governor's Global Warming Task Force recommended that the state modify the moratorium, lowering barriers to plant construction.

That recommendation followed the a decision in 2007 by the Legislature's special committee on nuclear power to support eliminating the moratorium altogether.

That's from the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison and what can we say? We agree. But:

So far, however, adamant nuclear power opponents have blocked attempts to remove the moratorium, which has prevented the state from adding to the three nuclear reactors that generate 20 percent of the state's electricity.

So perhaps its time to pull out the big - well, we won't say guns. How about, as Jessamyn West might put it, Friendly Persuasion:

Self-proclaimed “sensible environmentalist” Patrick Moore opened the UW [University of Wisconsin] Energy Hub Conference Friday by advocating nuclear energy, calling it the most effective way of reducing carbon emissions and consumption of fossil fuels.

Although he was a founding member of Greenpeace, Moore left the organization, feeling his colleagues created policies based on sensation rather than science. He is now a co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a pro-nuclear energy association. [CASEnergy describes itself this way: "The CASEnergy Coalition is a large grassroots coalition that unites unlikely allies across the business, environmental, academic, consumer and labor community to support nuclear energy." "Association" doesn't quite catch it.]

“Nuclear energy is one of the most important, beneficial energy technologies for the future of this world, and we need to go down that road,” Moore said.

With a nuclear moratorium up for repeal in Wisconsin in January 2009, Moore said the state government needs to remove “the barrier to nuclear energy which has been erected here.”

We can't predict the future, of course, but we suspect the Wisconsin ban is not long for this world. The Journal has it about right:

Nuclear power is required.

Nuclear power is not free of problems. The high cost of plant construction and questions about long-term waste disposal are drawbacks. But solutions are available.

The moratorium should go.

Sing it loud, sing it strong.

A Wisconsin dairy farm. We may be focused on energy , but in Wisconsin it's all about the dairy.


Neurovore said...

It would be nice if Minnesota also reconsidered their ban on nuclear power as well. I have heard of some discussion of lifting the ban a few years ago, but I think it practically ended after people got upset at the idea of storing spent fuel at Prarie Island. Now I think the possibility is being raised again but I am not sure how serious the Minnesota legislature is about it.

How many other states besides Wisconsin and Minnesota have outright bans on nuclear power?

perdajz said...

Hey neurovore,

West Virginia has a ban on nuclear power because it's supposedly too hazardous! They'd rather burn coal instead. Hilarious.

Neurovore said...

I suppose part of the motivation for the ban is because West Virginia is heavily dependent on its coal mining industry. Because of this I imagine the state would rather not dismantle one of its main income generators.

perdajz said...

Yes, exactly. The irony is that by comparison to splitting uranium, burning coal is murderous, never mind hazardous. One rationale, if it can be called that, for the WV ban is that the problem of waste disposal remains to be solved. There is no problem, of course, and even if you argue that there is, it is certainly nothing like burning coal, where the solution to waste disposal is using the atmosphere for an open sewer.

xoff said...

In the 25 years since Wisconsin passed the law, the nuclear industry still has not found a safe way to dispose of high level radioactive waste, although more is generated every day.

Plutonium 239, one of the byproducts, needs to be kept our of the environment for 250,000 years. Considering that Wisconsin was covered by glaciers 10,000 years ago, that is a significant challenge.

Pretending that problem has gone away doesn't make it so. That is still the best reason not to build more plants.