It's Not Just Vermont: State Lawmakers Do Not Share Congress' Love for the Nuclear Industry, Which Gets Shut Out 0-8 in State Legislatures During 2010

"Loan Guarantee Fever" in Congress Finds No Counterpart in Across-the-Board Cold Shoulder From State Solons; From Kentucky to Arizona, Industry Lobbyists Fail to Overturn Bans, Pass Costs on to Consumers or Get Nuclear Classified as "Renewable Energy"

WASHINGTON, May 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It was front-page news across America this February when the Vermont Senate voted to shut down the troubled Vermont Yankee reactor in 2012.  But what most Americans don't know is that the nuclear industry also lost all of its seven other major state legislative pushes this year – going 0-8 and putting yet another nail in the coffin of the myth of the "nuclear renaissance" in the United States, according to an analysis by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).

Even as some in Congress would lavish tens of billions of dollars – and even unlimited – loan guarantees on the embattled nuclear power industry, state lawmakers in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont and West Virginia and Wisconsin said a firm "no" this year to more nuclear power.  The legislative issues ranged from attempts by nuclear industry lobbyists to overturn bans on new reactors to "construction work in progress" (CWIP) assessments to pay for new reactors to reclassifying nuclear power as a "renewable resource."    

How bad is the nuclear power industry doing in state legislatures?  In 2009, the industry went 0-5 with reactor moratorium overturn efforts in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, and West Virginia.  Even after stepping up its on-the-ground efforts in 2010 with paid lobbyists and extensive public relations efforts in states like Wisconsin, the industry again came up with nothing.

Michael Mariotte, executive director, Nuclear Information and Resource Service said:  "The much-hyped nuclear 'renaissance' is grinding to a halt in state after state. Too many lawmakers and journalists in Washington, D.C., have been blinded by the nuclear industry's $650 million lobbying campaign. But the state elected officials closest to the public know that the American people long ago rejected nuclear power as an electricity source and they're continuing to vote against the nuclear industry. The public wants clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity, not dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear power, and most state officials continue to show they understand that."

Dave Kraft, director, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Chicago, IL, said: "For the last three years nuclear power advocates in the Illinois legislature have tried unsuccessfully to repeal the state's 1987 nuclear construction moratorium law.  Illinois is better off for their abject failure.  This moratorium has successfully protected the state from the threat of additional nuclear waste build-up, a job made even more necessary and pressing today than in 1987 with the cancellation of the Yucca Mt. project, the Federal Government's only plan for permanent disposal of these deadly, long-lived wastes.  Repealing a law that successfully protects Illinois under today's much more dire radioactive circumstances is irrational, irresponsible and dangerous."

Daniel Endreson, program coordinator, Clean Water Action Midwest Office, Minneapolis, MN, said:

"Nuclear proponents have once again attempted to repeal the moratorium on new nuclear plants in Minnesota. This year nuclear proponents were faced with the prospect to allow the moratorium to be lifted, but with conditions which would have protected ratepayers and the environment. Instead of accepting this option, proponents instead chose to quickly abandon their attempts. Even though proponents like to claim nuclear is clean, safe and cheap energy source, they appeared unwilling to prove these claims. This should be a signal to all Minnesotans that new nuclear is the wrong direction for our state and that we should remain focused on developing actual clean, home-grown energy."

Sandy Bahr, chapter director, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, Phoenix, AZ, said: "The last two years bills have been introduced in the Arizona Legislature to include nuclear power in the definition of renewable energy.  Not only is that incorrect, it is just plain wrong and would be a disaster for Arizona's growing renewable energy industry.  Solar energy industry representatives, small businesses, and even utilities told legislators and the governor this was a bad idea and a huge step backwards, which resulted in the bill being withdrawn."

The following is an overview of the nuclear industry's failed state legislative efforts in 2010:

  • Arizona. SolarCity, Kyocera Solar, Inc. and Suntech Power Holdings joined with other solar energy providers in February to warn that if Arizona House Bill 2701 (HB 2701) was passed into law, it would have jeopardized Arizona's entire renewable energy industry. The failed HB 2701 proposed to replace the existing Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in Arizona with one that would allow utilities to use existing nuclear and hydroelectric power to meet the RES requirements, eliminate distributed generation requirements within the bill and eliminate any interim energy requirements between now and 2025.  According to the state's solar industry leaders, the bill's inclusion of non-renewables in the definition of renewable energy, new "double regulation" and other changes to the RES would have halted all new renewable energy development in the state, undercut one of Arizona's fastest growing industries and put thousands of existing and future jobs in jeopardy as the state's economy recovers from the effects of the recession.
  • Illinois.  Another attempt to repeal the Illinois nuclear construction moratorium failed to move in the state legislature.  The Illinois House chose not to move on Rep. JoAnn Osmond's HB875; it was never voted on.  Attempts to advance the bill in the Senate as an amendment to another measure failed.
  • Iowa.  The nuclear industry sought the authority to impose a CWIP fee to finance a possible second nuclear reactor in the state.   That proposal was shot down by state lawmakers.  Instead, a watered-down measure, HB 2399, was signed into law, authorizing one of Iowa's utilities to collect $15 million from ratepayers over the next three years to conduct feasibility studies.
  • Kentucky. Senate Bill 26 would have overturned a 1984 moratorium on the building of nuclear reactors.   The measure died in the House, which elected to keep the state's more than quarter-century old moratorium in place.
  • Minnesota.  Efforts in the Minnesota Legislature to lift the state's ban on new nuclear reactors are now dying in the waning days of the legislative session.  However, the measure that remains alive for the moment bans CWIP financing arrangements, and has been described by the nuclear industry as so restrictive that it would not actually permit new reactor construction projects in the state.  
  • Vermont.   After allegations of mismanagement and ongoing concern about radioactive tritium leaks, the Vermont Senate voted 26 to 4 in February to shut down the nuclear reactor in 2012, marking the first time a state legislature has voted to close an existing nuclear reactor.  Entergy is seeking to relicense the 40-year-old reactor, which faces much criticism for the tritium leaks, collapsed cooling towers and other problems.
  • West Virginia. West Virginia's official ban on the construction of nuclear reactors remains unchanged. In February, the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee by a lopsided voice vote killed a move to eliminate the prohibition.  
  • Wisconsin.  When they elected to pour substantial funds into Wisconsin to prevail in the state legislature, the nuclear industry appeared confident of success.  Wisconsin legislators included a provision to gut the nuclear moratorium law in a climate bill during the 2010 legislative session, but their efforts failed when the session ended on April 22nd, without the bill coming up for a vote. Wisconsin's existing state law requires that any proposed nuclear power facility be proven economical for ratepayers and that federally licensed waste repository be available to safely store spent nuclear fuel.  In practice, affordable power and long-term waste disposal are two requirements that nuclear power is incapable of meeting.

ABOUT Nuclear Information and Resource Service

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a 32-year old public interest organization, was founded to be the national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues (http://www.nirs.org).

CONTACT:  Ailis Aaron Wolf, for NIRS, (703) 276-3265 or aawolf@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 6 p.m. EDT/3 p.m. PDT on May 13, 2010 at http://www.nirs.org.

SOURCE Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Takoma Park, MD



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