Nuclear power hearing dominated by speakers looking to lift restrictions

By Chris Thompson

Not one person during a nearly three-hour public hearing testified against a bill that would lift what amounts to Wisconsin’s moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

Beyond bill author Rep. Kevin Petersen, those speaking in favor of AB 384 yesterday included Public Service Commission member and former DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch. The Assembly’s Energy and Utilities Committee also heard from multiple construction industry representatives and students wearing t-shirts that read “Environmentalist for nuclear energy.”

Amber Meyer Smith of Clean Wisconsin said her group supports current Wisconsin law. The costs of a nuclear plant and the threats to the environment from fuel waste, Meyer Smith said, are just too much for Clean Wisconsin to support.

Her organization, along with the Citizens Utility Board and a private citizen, registered against the bill but didn’t testify. The Sierra Club-John Muir Chapter is registered with the GAB in opposition to the legislation.

“We submitted testimony,” Meyer Smith said, “and just felt that was sufficient.”

The topic isn’t new in the Capitol. It arose as a possibility during former Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration through an energy task force. And committee member Rep. Josh Zepnick, of Milwaukee, said he is among the Dems who have tried to lift the moratorium.

Petersen, R-Waupaca, said the state in 1983 enacted regulations that essentially put a stop to nuclear plant construction. Petersen, Huebsch and others argued storage and fuel recycling technology have advanced to the point that the concerns of 1983 no longer apply.

Frank Jablonski, a lobbyist for the Nuclear Energy Institute, testified he would bet his own health on the safety of storage technology.

“If you want to put a dry cask in my backyard, you absolutely could,” he said. “Just build the plant in Wisconsin.”