Lawmakers consider lifting state nuclear power ban

State legislators heard testimony Wednesday from proponents of lifting Wisconsin’s more than three-decades old moratorium on building new nuclear power facilities during a three-hour public hearing. Opponents to the proposal, including Clean Wisconsin, the Citizens Utility Board, and the Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter, all registered against Assembly Bill 384 but did not testify.

The bill, which has been proposed previously, seeks to remove a 1983 restriction that requires any new nuclear plants built in Wisconsin to be economically advantageous for ratepayers.

That law also includes a provision that prevents new plant approval unless a storage facility capable of storing high-level nuclear waste from all of the state’s nuclear plants is available.

The bill’s backers say nuclear power has never been this safe, and would be a cost-effective addition to efforts already underway to expand renewable energy production from solar and wind sites. Adding more power from nuclear plants would also help reduce carbon emissions, enabling the state to better meet new federal carbon emissions standards.

Opponents note solar and wind energy is still safer and cleaner than nuclear, and doesn’t bring with it the problem of waste disposal that a nuclear facility would encounter. Building new nuclear sites would also burden consumers with significant up-front costs to pay for their construction.