How the EPA may force Wisconsin onto more nuclear power

This seems to be the law of unintended consequences coming home to roost in Wisconsin for both the EPA and the environmental lobby in the Badger State and it’s hard to suppress a bit of a smile over it. New EPA regulations and the relentless attacks on the coal industry have led to the state needing to make some adjustments in how they produce their power. That probably sounded like a big win for the Green lobby until legislators took a look at their available options and determined that they might have no choice but to put in some more nuclear reactors at some point. (Daily Caller)

The lower-house of Wisconsin’s state legislature passed a bill Tuesday lifting a 33 year-old restriction on the construction of new nuclear power plants in an attempt to comply with federal regulations phasing out coal plants.

Lawmakers who voted for the bill claim the state needs as much flexibility as possible to reduce coal use in order to comply with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The bill’s Democratic opponents, on the other hand, say natural gas power plants are a better way to comply with EPA mandates than nuclear power.

The bill “doesn’t say we’re going to go to nuclear energy, it doesn’t say we’re going to build a plant,” Republican Representative Kevin Peterson, the bill’s author, said when introducing it.

In order to meet the mandates of the EPA, Wisconsin will have to make some steep carbon cuts. That’s going to come at an estimated cost of as much as $2K per year for the voters and a serious reduction in the amount of power they get from coal currently. (That’s almost 60% of their grid right now.) They get around 15% of their power from the state’s one operational nuclear plant, the Point Beach reactor complex. The environmentalists might have hoped the state would turn to solar and wind, but those are kicking in a grand total of 3.8% of their power and there’s no profitable way to expand that very much in the near future.

The other true bit of irony here is that the EPA and the environmentalists may be forced to take some medicine which may wind up being a fine cure, no matter how distasteful they find it. Nuclear plants produce essentially zero greenhouse gas output and they don’t really “burn” anything in the conventional sense. The two primary byproducts are warm water and energy. Of course, the other thing they produce is spent fuel rods which have traditionally been problematic, but new advances in the science are allowing modern plants to convert their spent rods into new fuel with far less to dispose of. This could be a win win for Minnesota while simultaneously sending the Green lobby into an alcoholic coma.

Who says the EPA never does anything worthwhile? (Well, okay… that’s usually me. But they might produce something good in Wisconsin, albeit unintentionally.)

Nuclear Power Plants

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