Waste & Cost of Safeguards on New Nuclear Reactors at Lobby Day 2011

For WNPJ's 20th anniversary, a grassroots lobby day was held on February 23, 2011.  One of the focus issues was Waste and Cost of Safeguards on New Nuclear Reactors.  Below is information that was created for the lobby day and to help with on-going advocacy. 


Issue Backgrounder: Nuclear Reactor Safeguards

 Since 1984, Wisconsin law (Stat. 196.493) has placed two important safeguards on new nuclear reactors. Before a new reactor can be built in the state, there must be a federally-licensed repository for the high-level radioactive waste generated, and the power generated must be economically advantageous for state ratepayers. These waste and cost safeguards protect Wisconsin communities from exorbitant energy costs and from mounting stockpiles of radioactive waste. Because there is no repository or other way to safely deal with the radioactive waste, there are three nuclear waste stockpiles in the state, at the Kewaunee and Point Beach nuclear reactors, and at the defunct La Crosse reactor.
Representative Mark Honadel, the chair of the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities, has called repealing Wisconsin’s waste and cost safeguards on new nuclear reactors one of his top priorities. He wants a nuclear safeguard repeal bill to be the first energy bill signed into law by Governor Scott Walker.
To strongly and actively oppose any attempt to repeal Wisconsin’s cost and waste safeguards on new nuclear reactors.
  • Nuclear isn’t like other energy sources. Those who want to repeal the current law argue that nuclear energy should be considered along with other energy sources – that everything should be “on the table.”  But there is a legitimate reason nuclear energy is treated differently.  Nuclear power is the only energy source that produces high-level radioactive waste that is so dangerous it must be isolated from humans and the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. No current technology exists to do that safely.
  • There is no solution to the nuclear waste problem. No industry in Wisconsin should be allowed to generate such highly toxic waste without being able to permanently and safely dispose of it.  The current system of on-site radioactive waste storage has always been considered a temporary, stopgap measure to be employed while the U.S. Department of Energy developed a permanent disposal site.  Current law reflects the fact that it is irresponsible to increase the amount of radioactive waste being stored along the shores of Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River unless a viable solution is found for the permanent off-site disposal of the radioactive waste. 
  • New nuclear reactors would require massive taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies. Nuclear power is economically feasible only with huge government bailouts and subsidies underwritten by taxpayers.  If a new nuclear plant was built, utility bills would also rise dramatically.  A new nuclear plant would mean that taxes will go up for taxpayers, and rates will go up for ratepayers. 
  • There’s no demand for new baseload electricity. Wisconsin currently has considerable excess energy capacity – so much that the Public Service Commission has opened an investigation into the matter. No new baseload power plants are needed for at least 10 years. 
  • No jobs will be created. Because Wisconsin has an excess supply of baseload power, no new baseload power plants will likely be built in Wisconsin over the next decade. Therefore, repealing our nuclear safeguards will not create any jobs for at least that long.  In comparison, investments in energy efficiency are potent economic engines.  For example, Focus on Energy has created thousands of jobs since the program was launched in 2001. 
  • Nuclear reactors won’t help address climate change. New nuclear reactors would not be an effective or appropriate way to address climate change.  A new nuclear reactor would cost at least $12 billion and take at least a decade to construct.  The price tag for nuclear energy is simply too high and the timeline is far too slow to address this urgent problem. Available renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are faster, cheaper, safer and cleaner strategies for reducing greenhouse emissions. 
  •  Go to www.wnpj.org/cfnf to learn about the Carbon Free, Nuclear Free Wisconsin coalition and to sign up for periodic email updates from the Carbon Free, Nuclear Free campaign.