Nuclear power plant construction in Wisconsin likely will be just as difficult to accomplish after the legislative session as it was before.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said state Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay. “I’m not saying we should ring Lake Michigan with 20 new plants, but we need to have the option on the table.”
Soletski and three other lawmakers drafted that option as part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.
But the Assembly did not debate the act during its session Tuesday, and, even if it were to pass the Assembly, the Senate does not have the votes to pass the act as drafted, said Carrie Lynch, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Wausau.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act would repeal a state law that prohibits nuclear power plant construction in Wisconsin until the federal government builds a repository to store nuclear waste.
That law, Soletski said, creates a moratorium on nuclear plant development.
“The federal government has given up on the repository,” he said. “So as long as the goofy language about it stays in state law, you can’t build.”
That’s good news for nuclear opponents such as the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin, which still supported the original Clean Energy Jobs Act. The board shifted to a neutral position on the act when an amended draft loosened the requirements that would have to be met before a plant could be built.
According to the original bill, if Wisconsin developed new nuclear plants, the electricity would stay in Wisconsin, said Charlie Higley, the board’s executive director. But the amendment dropped that requirement.
“We just think that if we’re shouldering the risk of building and operating these things,” he said, “we should also get the benefit of the power.”
The projects are not risky, said Terry McGowan, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139.
“Everyone else is building them,” he said. “People are scared because they think of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, but there hasn’t been anything since.”
Furthermore, McGowan said, utilities and developers are a long way from building nuclear power plants, so the actual projects could still be many years away.
But, he said, Wisconsin should be ready.
“It just makes sense,” he said. “We don’t know if we’re going to have the demands later, and our guys would like to know that if the day ever came where someone wanted to build one here, they could.”