Wisconsin citizens will have their first chance on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to tell state legislators that making it easier to build more nuclear reactors should not be part of a proposed Clean Energy Jobs bill.
A special State Senate committee considering the bill, (SB 450) will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. in Room 412 East of the State Capitol.
It is critical that people turn out in numbers to register and testify against changing the current law, which protects citizens and the environment by requiring that a federal nuclear waste repository be operating to handle high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power reactors before any new ones can be built.
The proposed new law would eliminate that requirement and open the door to more reactors here.
What’s wrong with that? Well, the high-level radioactive waste the reactors produce is dangerous to humans and the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. To put that into some perspective, I like to remind people that 15,000 years ago Wisconsin was covered by glaciers.
Climate change is real, and we must act. But a friend and ally on this issue, Jennifer Nordstrom, likes to say that proposing more nuclear power as a solution to global warming is like telling someone to start smoking in order to lose weight. Bad tradeoff.
We don’t need nuclear power to solve our problems, and we don’t need to fake the false choice between nukes and coal. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions than nuclear power.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act goes a long way toward putting Wisconsin on the right track toward renewable energy. Probably 90 or 95% of it is good policy. It was recommended by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming, which worked long and hard to produce a comprehensive bill.
But there were a few too many utility reprersentatives and their allies on the task force, who were able to force the outnumbered environmentalists to accept a deal with the devil and include the provisions that reopen the door to more nuclear reactors.
Groups which participated in the task force, including several organizations with solid anti-nuclear credentials from past battles, are forbidden to seek changes in the bill; they are signed on to support the whole package.
So that leaves it up to the general public, the citizens of Wisconsin, the ones who got the current law passed, to keep it on the books. That sensible law, passed in 1984, is the one that says before you can build another reactor there must be a federal waste repository to handle the waste it produces.
Why did Wisconsin pass that law? Here’s what the Legislature said at the time:
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:
SECTION 1 . Legislative findings and purpose. The legislature finds that
(1) Until there is a facility available for the permanent disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants, the present lack of a long-term waste disposal option increases the risk that the insufficiency of interim storage space for spent fuel could lead to power plant shutdowns.
(2) Large cost overruns in nuclear power plant construction projects in other states have adversely affected ratepayers .
(3) The public service commission, by order, has found that present uncertainties in the nuclear fuel cycle regarding waste storage and disposal, uranium availability, reprocessing and decommissioning costs make it contrary to the public interest for Wisconsin utilities to commit themselves presently to any future nuclear expansion.
(4) The public service commission, by order, has required electric utilities to identify maximum cost-effective conservation and renewable energy potential in their service areas and to submit specific proposals for achieving the potential.
(5) The public service commission, by order, has recognized that wind, water and other alternative sources of energy are potentially valuable as a supplement to conventional electric generation in this state and that it is in the public interest for utilities to become more involved in the development and implementation of such sources.
The US nuclear industry has been producing that waste for more than 50 years, but hasn’t been able to solve the problem of how to dispose of it safely and permanently. Neither has any other country, and despite what the nuclear advocates tell you about those clever French folks they haven’t done it, either.
Don’t let them nuke Wisconsin’s climate.