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Nuclear power picking up steam

Paul Snyder
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A state moratorium on nuclear development is doing nothing to cool debate in Madison over the energy alternative.

Despite projections of growing energy needs and Wisconsin’s struggles to meet its renewable energy goals, nuclear power opponents remain as steadfast as supporters. Both stated their cases Tuesday in forums at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the state Capitol.

Kara Rumsey, spokeswoman for Madison-based public interest group Wisprig, and Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Md., gave lawmakers a briefing on the costs of developing nuclear power.

“Since 2005, construction costs for nuclear reactors more than tripled,” Rumsey said. “The price to build a 1,000-megawatt plant is about $7.5 billion, and nuclear companies are expecting ratepayers to foot that bill.”

Mitchell Singer, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C., confirmed the costs range from $5 billion to $8 billion. But, he said, there are few cleaner options that would create as much power.

Singer said nuclear plants cannot be ignored. They do not produce greenhouse gases, and national energy projections forecast a 21 percent growth in energy need by 2030, he said.

“The country needs a contribution from all energy sources,” he said. “But the only way we’ll be able to meet the needs is to invest in nuclear.”

Other states are investing. Singer said 17 energy companies are waiting for licenses to build nuclear reactors, and a list from the Nuclear Energy Institute shows 28 plant projects (Microsoft Excel) are either proposed or under consideration throughout the country.

If Wisconsin does not change its attitude, Singer said, it will miss out on energy and economic development opportunities.

“Companies just won’t build there,” he said. “That’s it.”

Wind farm developers are sounding the same alarm as lawmakers consider a bill that would set statewide guidelines for placement of wind turbines.

Considering the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin last year rejected Wisconsin Power & Light Co.’s application to build a major coal plant expansion in Cassville, something will have to give, said state Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay.

“It becomes a culmination of all these things,” Montgomery said. “If you’re not going to allow coal or build natural gas and you’re going to fight wind, what is there? Well, you have that slap-your-forehead moment and realize it’s nuclear.”

Montgomery last year authored a bill, which failed in the state Senate, to set the stage for more nuclear development in Wisconsin. Wisconsin law does not prohibit consideration of new nuclear plants, but the law states such projects can only be built if the developer or utility can prove it’s the most cost-efficient option.

State Rep. James Soletski, D-Green Bay, and chairman of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, said any changes to the state’s nuclear laws likely will be part of a larger bill dealing with the recommendations made by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming.

But Makhijani said the state is better off pursuing other energy alternatives.

“There is a technological revolution going on, and public debate is still mired in the 20th century,” he said.

“It’s not sensible to say we need baseload power and look to nuclear. We’re rushing into an idea without adequate knowledge.”


  1. Hurray, finally talk on nuclear. Nuclear is clean, efficient, safe and quiet. Wind is a taxpayer hoax, is loud, very inefficient and by government studies may not reduce over all emitions at all. The road blocks to nuclear power generation need to be removed and move full speed ahead to get our electricity production on track.

  2. Arjun Makhijani said, “It’s not sensible to say we need baseload power and look to nuclear. We’re rushing into an idea without adequate knowledge.” This is the reasoning only a paid hack could assert.

    How can this guy be so blatantly shameless about the future of this world? He knows there is no other low carbon emitting base load power sources other than nuclear. He basically admits it when states Wisconsin would be better off with out nuclear because, “There is a technological revolution going on.” Notice no specifics because there is no other carbon free base load power generating sources other than nuclear. He wants the world to simmer to a boil until another technology other than nuclear is developed. Well I am sorry professor that does not fly.

    Why is this guy so anti-nuclear because he has always been anti-nuclear. He even makes a living at it. It is hard to admit when you’re wrong especially when your livelihood is dependent on it. It is just like the broken down crack addict who continues to hit the pipe even after they have lost everything.

    Viva the Nuclear Renaissance.


  3. Taxpayers/ratepayers should be well-informed that investing in nuclear energy would be a costly, wasteful, and bad investment. The myth that nukes are cheap, and clean energy is expensive needs to be exposed; the facts simply do not support this false notion. In fact, investing in clean energy solutions rather than a fleet of new nuclear power plants would yield greater benefits for America. Directing $300 billion (estimated cost to build the 40 new nuclear plants that are on the drawing board) into energy efficiency could eliminate growth in America’s electricity consumption through 2030 and save consumers more than $600 billion.

    Incredibly, nuclear power companies are counting on consumers and taxpayers to bear the risks of reactor construction. Take for example that in 2005, Congress passed an energy bill containing numerous additional subsidies for a new generation of nuclear reactors.

    – Unlimited taxpayer-backed loan guarantees, covering up to 80 percent of the cost of a nuclear plant.
    – An extension of the Price-Anderson Act, which limits nuclear industry liability in the case of a major accident.
    – $5.7 billion in operating subsidies.
    – $2 billion to insure companies against any costs caused by delays in licensing the first six new reactors. Covered delays include those that result from action by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or litigation, even if the delay helps protect public safety.
    – $1.3 billion for decommissioning old plants.
    – $2.9 billion for research and development.
    – $2 billion for a uranium enrichment venture.
    Just to name a few.

    It does not make economic sense to subsidize an industry that has, over the past two decades, failed to show that it is a sound investment.

    For more information, read the report:

  4. Bruce,
    I disagree overall…but I do love your last line, and couldn’t agree more:
    “It does not make economic sense to subsidize an industry that has, over the past two decades, failed to show that it is a sound investment”


    So long Ethanol!
    Good ridance Wind and Solar!
    Adios Hybrids.
    Be gone, Global Warming! errr, I mean Climate Change. Sorry

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