New nukes for Minnesota?

Monty Burns is looking to expand his operation.
Monty Burns is looking to expand his operation.

For a while there, Minnesota was vying to take the lead in pioneering the use of renewable energy. This week, the new Republican Legislature will try to push us in a different direction: building more nuclear plants.

Minnesota already has two nuclear plants. But a decades-old moratorium has kept us from building any more--much to the dismay of industries thirsty for cheap energy and the people who make money building nuclear power plants.

With the GOP majority in the Legislature, the pro-more-nukes lobby is stronger than it's ever been.

In a press conference Friday, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and House Majority Leader Matt Dean said a bill to lift the moratorium on new nuclear power plants will be one of the very first pieces of legislation to be unveiled this week.

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said last month that the nuclear issue is about giving the business community what it wants.

True enough--building more nuclear plants has been a major agenda item for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which spent big money getting Republicans elected in November.

It isn't just Republicans lining up to end the moratorium, either--Congressmen Tim Walz and Eric Paulsen have also expressed support for the expansion of nuclear power in the state.

But there's a reason that Minnesota has backed off new nuclear construction for decades now: Nuclear plants generate waste that remains poisonously radioactive for millennia, and we don't really have any good place to put stuff like that.

The federal plan to create a giant tomb for nuclear waste in Arizona's Yucca Mountain is dead in the water, which leaves Minnesota to store whatever we generate ourselves. We're already doing that with our two existing plants, piling up an ever-increasing number of casks full of hundreds of tons of radioactive material in the Mississippi river floodplain in a facility that was initially supposed to be temporary.

Mark Dayton is on record opposing the construction of new power plants, so this bill could provoke the first major showdown between the governor and the Legislature.

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