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Friday, February 8, 2013

Count nuclear energy as renewable, area legislators ask

Update: 2/14/13  Michael Vickerman was interviewed on this topic by Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel. Read his comments here.

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This article by Richard Ryman in the Green Bay Press Gazette explains that area legislatures are trying to count nuclear energy as renewable energy... A truly unacceptable concept. Take action through Clean Wisconsin, and tell your legislator that this is wrong:

A bill to make nuclear energy produced in Wisconsin count toward the state’s renewable energy standard was written with Kewaunee Power Station in mind, but likely won’t keep that plant from closing this spring.

Dominion Resources Inc. has said it will shut down the one-reactor power plant on the shore of Lake Michigan in the spring because it could not sell it and cannot operate it profitably. Kewaunee’s power-purchase agreements with Wisconsin Public Service Corp. and Alliant Energy expire in December 2013, leaving the plant without a sure source of revenue.

A new agreement could not be reached because natural gas-generated electricity is cheaper than nuclear-generated power. The lack of an agreement made the plant unattractive to potential buyers.

Reps. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, and Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, drafted the bill, called LRB-0527, and are seeking co-sponsors.

As written, the bill would apply only to Kewaunee Power Station now, though it could apply to Point Beach Nuclear Plant or a new nuclear plant — none are planned — in the future. Point Beach has contracts to sell electricity that expire in 2030 for Unit 1 and 2033 for Unit 2 and would be ineligible for the bill’s benefits until those contracts expire.

“It is forward looking,” Jacque said. “If we had passed this legislation five years ago, in my opinion, we wouldn’t be seeing Kewaunee close.”

As long as natural gas prices remain at historically low levels, the tradeable resource credits created by the bill would not be enough to make nuclear competitive. Also, most Wisconsin utilities are near or have met their renewable-energy requirements.

“With the current environment of inexpensive natural gas, even though well intentioned, this bill may not have much impact,” said Kerry Spees, spokesman for Wisconsin Public Service Corp. “However, the current environment could change. We support the bill’s efforts to create jobs.”

Jacque said natural gas likely will not always be so inexpensive.


“There is a whole lot of uncertainty regarding fracking. It depends on what the EPA decides to do,” he said. “(Natural gas) is a bubble, just like any number of bubbles can occur.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. Many environmental groups oppose fracking.

The bill does not reclassify nuclear power as renewable energy. It adds an “advanced energy” category to the ways in which utilities can meet their mandated requirements. Utilities are required to have 10 percent of their electricity generated by renewable sources by 2015.

Nuclear power was not included in the renewable energy standards originally, but Jacque said he’s heard no objections to his proposal so far from environmental groups.

Read on...

Take action and email your legislatures through Clean Wisconsin.

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