By Mike Kaszuba
The Minnesota House voted Thursday to lift the moratorium on new nuclear power plants – sort of, and sort of not.
In a 73 to 59 vote, the House adopted language that would allow for new nuclear plants but said that costs associated with building the plant may not be recovered from rate payers until the plant begins operating. “It does, in fact, lift the moratorium,” said Rep. Mike Obermueller, DFL-Eagan, who co-sponsored the language.
But proponents of lifting the moratorium said that the language – by front-loading the costs to the utility companies – in effect makes building a new nuclear plant impossible.
“It’s a poison pill,” said Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, a lead legislator advocating for the moratorium to be lifted. She said the legislation contained “so many qualifications that it’s virtually impossible to build a [nuclear] power plant under these conditions.”
Obermueller disagreed. “You would indeed now in Minnesota be able to get a certificate of need” for a new nuclear plant, he said. “But what you wouldn’t be able to do was charge the rate payers for all the planning and prep.”
Thursday’s vote actually put both proponents and opponents of the moratorium on the same side – Peppin voted against the language because she said it did little to lift the moratorium, Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, a supporter of the moratorium, said he objected because it did not address the issue of where to store the growing amount of radioactive waste.
“The reason why we have the moratorium in the first place”, said Hornstein, is because there still is no clear answer on the federal level of where to store radioactive waste.
Peppin in fact said Thursday’s vote, coming during a debate on energy policy, probably ended any chance of lifting the moratorium in the House this year. “We only have a few days left, and this would have been the chance,” she said.