The issue of nuclear power was discussed at length during a Senate Environment and Energy Committee hearing this week. Two bills were brought forward that would remove the state’s nuclear power plant moratorium, with one specifically lifting the moratorium at Xcel Energy’s Monticello plant.
Proponents of nuclear power see the lifting of the nuclear power plant moratorium as the first step toward planning for the future use of more nuclear power in Minnesota. They view nuclear power as a safe means of providing for the state’s future baseload electric needs.
Opponents of nuclear power disagree. They view the use of nuclear power as environmentally unsound and point to such examples as the 2011 Japanese Fukushima disaster, with its equipment failures and reactor meltdowns. That event has led leading energy-consuming countries to doubt the safety of nuclear power and the wisdom of planned nuclear expansions.
The legislation that deals specifically with the Monticello plant would give the Public Utilities Commission the authority to issue a certificate of need for the construction of a single, new nuclear-powered electric generating unit on the site of its current nuclear plant.
Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium has been in place since 1994, and lifting the moratorium has been on the agenda for some legislators for several years, although it has never gained traction. Xcel Energy has said that if this bill passed, it would not affect its resource planning. Xcel Energy does not currently have a need for additional power, and has no plans to build a new plant – but said all energy sources should be on the table for long-term planning.