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Take Nuclear Provisions Out of Clean Energy Jobs Act

by Diane Farsetta

Would a truly "clean energy" source produce "one of the nation's most hazardous substances"? Of course not.

So why include provisions on nuclear reactors in the state's Clean Energy Jobs Act, recently introduced in the state Legislature? Nuclear reactors generate high-level radioactive waste, which is "one of the nation's most hazardous substances," according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

In a November 2009 report, the respected nonpartisan agency found there were no good options for dealing with the radioactive waste. As the federal government continues its decades-long struggle to find a solution to this public safety, environmental and political problem, the costs to taxpayers and ratepayers will skyrocket.

In the meantime, radioactive waste is piling up at 80 sites in 35 states, including three sites in Wisconsin.

The GAO report should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating weakening Wisconsin's safeguards on new nuclear reactors. For 25 years, state law has required that there be a federally licensed repository for high-level nuclear waste, before new reactors can be built here. This condition is needed to ensure that more of our communities don't become dumping grounds for "one of the nation's most hazardous substances."

Unfortunately, one of the most important environmental measures ever to come before our state Legislature -- the Clean Energy Jobs Bill -- contains a provision that would weaken our nuclear safeguards.

The provision would completely remove the requirement for a nuclear waste repository. Instead, it would allow new nuclear reactors to be built in the state, if the plan to deal with the radioactive waste is deemed "economic, reasonable, stringent and in the public interest."

Although that language may sound strong, it's how the nuclear industry describes its practice of keeping the radioactive waste at reactor sites indefinitely -- which the GAO report warns about.

There is no effective way to deal with radioactive nuclear waste, short of avoiding its production in the first place. No country in the world has been able to build what scientists consider the safest long-term storage option for radioactive nuclear waste: a deep geologic repository.

Why does the Clean Energy Jobs Act include problematic nuclear provisions, among its many commendable measures to address global warming and strengthen Wisconsin's economy by increasing energy efficiency and supporting renewable energy?

Simply put, it's spin- and lobbying-driven politics.  Over the past year, nuclear industry lobbyists have  been active in Madison, and some state legislators  have bought their arguments. As a result, pro-nuclear provisions were included in the Clean Energy Jobs Act, in a bid to increase support for a complex bill sure to be contentious.

The nuclear provisions in the Clean Energy Jobs Act give serious pause to residents who understand that their state must mount a robust response to global warming, but don't more nuclear reactors - and more radioactive waste stockpiles - in Wisconsin.

Nuclear reactors do not produce clean energy; they create "one of the nation's most hazardous substances." Therefore, legislators must take the pro-nuclear provisions out of the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

 

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