Nuclear power lobbyists may have influence in Washington, D.C., but they seem to be getting knocked out at the state legislative level. So far in 2011, the nuclear power industry has a record of zero wins and six losses in Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
The nuclear power industry’s track record is in keeping with its history of state legislative failures; in 2010, it went zero and eight and zero and six in 2009.
“Though many utilities, lawmakers and regulatory commissioners in the Southeastern U.S. continue to support building new nuclear reactors that put ratepayers at risk, the public is growing ever more skeptical of nuclear power,” said Sara Barczak, program director, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “The fallout from Fukushima is yet to be fully known and likely will further erode the public’s acceptance of this high-cost, high-risk energy option.”
This year’s state legislative failures include the following:
Iowa—A bill pushed by MidAmerican Energy Co. to charge utility customers in advance for “small modular reactors” as well as potentially larger reactors stalled in the state Senate and cannot be taken up again until 2012.
Kentucky—A bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on new reactors didn’t pass in the House.
Minnesota—A -heavily lobbied bill to overturn the state’s moratorium on additional reactors died in conference committee.
Missouri—Despite a major industry push, a bill to charge utility customers in advance to pay for an early site permit for the proposed new Callaway reactor died.
North Carolina—A “Super Construction Work in Progress (CWIP)” bill to eliminate prudence review of CWIP expenses was proposed but never introduced due to strong on-the-ground opposition.
Wisconsin—A push to reintroduce a bill to overturn the Badger State’s moratorium on new reactors failed.
In 2010, nuclear power lobbyists failed in legislative pushes in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. In 2009, the industry enjoyed no success in its lobbying efforts in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Since the Fukushima disaster in March, plans for new nuclear plants and expansions at existing ones are being scrutinized. Meanwhile, there has been an upsurge in safety inspections and risk assessments at reactors across the country. Today, 104 commercial reactors at 65 nuclear power plants in 31 states provide approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity. These plants offer low fuel costs, relatively high power output and steady base-load for the grid. However, now the nuclear power industry has an even more difficult task of reconvincing the public and regulators that plants can be operated safely, be protected from natural and manmade disasters, and handle radioactive waste responsibly.