The Minneosta House is expected to debate a bill to lift the state's ban on new nuclear plants. This comes after the Senate earlier this month voted 50 to 14 in favor of lifting the ban. In recent years, similar measures won support in the then-DFL-controlled Senate but stalled in the DFL House.
With Republicans leading both chambers, this may very well be the year that a bill scrapping the 17-year-old ban heads to the governor. But DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appears cool to the idea of lifting the ban. In order to support it, he said it could have no impact on ratepayers, it would not increase the amount of nuclear waste and that it would not generate weapons-grade or near weapons-grade plutonium.
Several area lawmakers are on board with the proposal. Co-sponsors of the bill to lift the ban include Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester; Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester; Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa; Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea; and Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing.
If the governor were to veto the bill, it would require some Minnesota senators to switch their votes. Specifically, six senators would have to become "yes" votes to override the veto. The Prairie Island Indian Community in Red Wing has lobbied aggressively against lifting the ban citing concerns that there is not a solution yet to the nuclear waste storage problem. This comes as Red Wing's Prairie Island Nuclear Plant is looking to expand and store more waste on site.
The city of Red Wing has said they want any proposal to lift the ban to include efforts to solve the waste problem. The city would like to see the state attorney general sue the U.S. Department of Energy for its failure to abide by federal law in terms of nuclear storage and to open up the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada. The city also wants a comprehensive study looking at the cost of storing nuclear waste for potentially hundreds of years and to take steps to ensure that hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds from lawsuits filed by Xcel Energy are returned to ratepayers.