Last week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed lifting Minnesota’s moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants. The proposal was part of his new energy plan to fight global warming.
The state has two operational nuclear plants in Monticello and Red Wing. They are both operated by Xcel Energy. The state currently forbids the construction of any new nuclear facilities.
Nuclear power has not been popular nationwide for several decades. It is a technology that requires huge capital investments even though the energy it produces is relatively cheap. It has long been considered a risky proposition by investors. However, a nationwide emphasis on clean energy is piquing a new interest in nuclear power. Opponents are quick to point out the inherent dangers of using nuclear power, and it’s true that there is some risk. With no place to send nuclear waste, it is often stored on site, and some view these as ticking environmental time-bombs.
It appears that Minnesota is doing well in its efforts to convert to cleaner energy. Wind power has been proven to be very effective in parts of the state, and a number of new projects are a testament to its bright future. At this time there seems to be no need for new nuclear facilities.
Nationwide may be a different story. Some states lack reasonable geography to support solar, wind or geothermal. So on a national level, nuclear energy may help play a role in reducing emissions, even though calling it “clean” wouldn’t be entirely accurate.
Given the current success of promoting renewable energy in Minnesota, Pawlenty’s proposal seems odd at this time. We certainly should not rush to build nuclear plants when we are effectively utilizing wind power and increasing our use of biofuels. Nuclear energy may have to be part of a national solution to global warming, but it should certainly not be our first choice. All efforts should be made to invest in energy sources that are truly clean. Minnesota has started to reach for that goal, and we shouldn’t take a step backward to embrace nuclear energy.