TUE AM News: Nuclear energy could be path to state’s zero-carbon future; UW System releases details on option for nursing students to fight COVID-19

— The cheapest path to Wisconsin’s zero-carbon pledge is through the readily available technology of reliable, low-emission nuclear energy, according to a UW-Madison professor.

But Wisconsin has just one nuclear energy plant — Point Beach Nuclear Plant in Two Rivers. And nuclear power accounts for 7 percent of the state’s energy supply, according to the Public Service Commission.

Paul Wilson, professor of nuclear engineering, told WisBusiness.com no utilities currently appear to be interested in constructing new reactors in Wisconsin.

“Until the market fully integrates the cost of carbon in some way, as an earnest expression of the goal for a zero-carbon electricity grid, there may not be a market for new nuclear energy in Wisconsin,” he said. 

The Kewaunee reactor shut down about seven years ago, based largely on difficulty competing in the electricity market, Wilson said, adding that reactors in some markets have a hard time competing with “very cheap” natural gas. After it closed, the state’s total zero-carbon generation decreased from 28 percent to 25 percent, offsetting gains made by solar and wind. 

As of January 2020, zero-carbon energy sources account for approximately 16 percent of capacity, according to the PSC’s latest energy assessment.

Read the full story at WisBusiness.com: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2020/nuclear-energy-could-be-path-to-wisconsins-zero-carbon-future/ 

— The gBETA Pitch Night Series will celebrate local startups from across the state and around the country this week.

The gener8tor program is a free accelerator for early-stage startups. It graduated 25 startups this year — five businesses in each of the five cohorts.  

gBETA Beloit, Madison, and Milwaukee Pitch Night is tonight at 5 p.m. Thirteen startups are delivering 5-minute pitches.  

gBETA Social Impact Pitch Night is Thursday at 5 p.m. Ten startups will be pitching.

The pitch series is a networking opportunity between the founders and community members, including founders’ friends, family, mentors and investors.

RSVP to the event here: https://www.gbetastartups.com/pitch-night/fall-2020 

— UW System President Tommy Thompson released more details on his plan to encourage UW students with nursing skills and other health backgrounds to help battle COVID-19. 

“The UW System has identified a need and is stepping up to help,” Thompson said. “As Wisconsin deals with this terrible pandemic, the need for health care workers has never been greater. The UW System is glad to be able to offer this incentive to students, who can use this opportunity to learn and to help our fellow Wisconsinites.”

The system had previously announced that its approximately 4,000 nursing students would be able to earn real-time experience and one $500 tuition refund at the end of the spring 2021 semester for agreeing to work in hospitals and other health care settings and to help administer vaccines, including anticipated vaccines that combat COVID-19.

Eligible students must be enrolled at a UW System campus during the spring 2021 semester, must work a minimum of 50 hours in a Wisconsin clinical or health care setting between Dec. 1, 2020 and Feb. 1, 2021, and must meet health care licensure and certification requirements. 

The UW System is considering additional spring semester incentives for nursing student health care work, including clinical support for vaccinations, beyond Feb. 1.

— The state took more than 75 days to pay some unemployment claims because the Department of Workforce Development failed to take prompt actions, according to the Legislative Audit Bureau.

The audit noted, for example, one person filed an initial claim on April 7, but didn’t receive any benefits until 92 days later. In that span, it took DWD 84 days before twice requesting information it needed from the individual to process the claim.

The report also found DWD wasn’t always quick to determine that someone was ineligible for benefits. One person who first filed April 3 wasn’t ruled ineligible until 94 days later. DWD took 35 days before requesting information it needed from the individual and an employer.

Interim DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek acknowledged the report “accurately reflects the struggles” of the UI system, she said some of those issues were “due to our state’s antiquated technology and complicated and inflexible laws.”

Republicans were quick to seize on yesterday’s report to underscore their long-running complaints about the delays in processing unemployment claims in the wake of the pandemic and Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order. 

“The audit confirms what the flood of phone calls to legislative offices suggested – DWD is failing to provide the service government is supposed to provide for a substantial number of claimants,” said Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem Lakes and co-chair of the Joint Audit Committee.

To get more detailed information about how DWD processing initial claims, the Audit Bureau selected a sample of 268 people who had filed initial claims between March 15 and April 11, but hadn’t been paid as of June 20.

That review found it took an average of 13 weeks to resolve the initial claims of the 250 people who’d been paid as of June 20. DWD was responsible for 11 of the 13 weeks it took to resolve those claims.

“I know that can never be zero, however when 90 percent of the instances where time elapsed were due to nothing more than negligence at DWD, it’s clear to me that they could have done much better,” said Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay and co-chair of the Joint Audit Committee.

Pechacek wrote in the agency response to the audit that the way it “portrays certain activities as delays or inactions based on a certain point in time may provide an incomplete representation of the activities involved in processing a claim.” Some of the delays, for example, for the processing of claims with the 268 cases LAB looked at for its sample may be improved through administrative efficiencies, but others may be outside the department’s control. She cited the agency’s work to expedite the processing of claims, including a contract signed with Google Cloud to help with reviews.

“Nevertheless, the main point that it has taken too long for some individuals to receive their determinations is undisputed,” she wrote. “DWD is steadfastly working to resolve all eligibility determinations so that it can resume its timely administration of claims while also implementing long-term changes to prevent and prepare for any similar crises in the future.”

Read the report: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/lab/media/3151/20-28full.pdf 

— Two of Wisconsin’s eight designated regional hubs for the Pfizer vaccine have received nearly 10,000 doses, and the other six will get vaccines today and tomorrow, according to state health officials. 

The Department of Health Services will not release the names of the hubs for security reasons. But UW Health, one of two hubs to receive shipments yesterday, has already started vaccinating its health care workers. 

DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said the agency is prioritizing hospitals and clinics as initial vaccination sites so as to reach frontline health care workers. The agency is communicating with each hub about the number of vaccines for their own system and the quantity that should be available to DHS teams to distribute to the “spokes” in the department’s hub-and-spoke distribution model. 

Up to 400,000 people are eligible in the first phase of the vaccine. The state will receive nearly 50,000 first doses of the Pfizer vaccine in its first allocation. It expects 101,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, assuming it is granted emergency use authorization at the end of the week. 

It will take months before the vaccine will get to the final phase — general distribution to the public, Willems Van Dijk said. It would follow “essential workers,” people over the age of 65 and people with diseases that put them at higher-risk to COVID-19.

When the vaccine is widely available, it can be administered through a number of different places: the doctors’ offices, health care systems, pharmacies and mass vaccination sites, Willems Van Dijk said. 

The vaccine is free — paid for by the federal government with tax dollars. However, health care providers may charge an administration fee to health insurance providers. For those that do not have health insurance, mass vaccination clinics across the state through DHS will not charge the administration fee, according to Willems Van Dijk. 

“Once the majority of us have vaccine … we move into a situation with herd immunity that will definitely start to reduce and hopefully eliminate the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” she said. “We want to make this as easy as possible for the most people to be vaccinated.”

The FDA granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine on Friday. On Saturday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the use of the vaccine for people aged 16 years and older. The CDC director then accepted those recommendations.

Visit the DHS COVID-19 vaccine program website: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-program.htm 

— Distribution and storage hurdles mean rural areas of the state will most likely have to wait for the Moderna vaccine, rather than the Pfizer vaccine.

The first supply of vaccine was used in a population distribution method, because it came before recommendations from the State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee. The recommendations will come later this week.

“We didn’t want to wait, we needed to get it going and make sure vaccine was available because everybody is awaiting that first dose,” Willems Van Dijk said. 

But the committee is considering a number of factors, including populations disproportionately affected whether by race and geography, she added. Once the Moderna vaccine is approved, she said, it will greatly enhance DHS’ ability to get to more rural areas of the state.

This is because the storage and handling of the Moderna vaccine is simpler. It does not need to be held at sub-zero temperatures like the Pfizer vaccine. 

“That second type of vaccine will make it a little bit easier in terms of distribution and particularly to rural areas of the state that might be a fair distance from one of our hub sites with the sub-zero refrigeration system,” Willems Van Dijk said.

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— The Department of Safety and Professional Services has established an auctioneer reciprocity agreement with Ohio — the first new reciprocity agreement for Wisconsin auctioneers in 20 years.

The agreement, signed in October, makes it easier for auctioneers credentialed in one state to obtain licensure in the other. Without reciprocity, Wisconsin auctioneers interested in overseeing or consulting on auctions in Ohio would need to apply for a one-time auction license for a single event or, for full licensure, would need to go through the initial licensure steps. 

It also opens up licensure in additional states for Wisconsin auctioneers who obtain an Ohio license. Ohio is the seventh state to recognize reciprocity for Wisconsin.

“Like many industries, auctioneering is evolving. Online auction platforms make out-of-state work more viable and attractive. Also, our credential holders may have expertise that could benefit customers in Ohio, and now they can more easily accept that business and handle those auctions,” DSPS Secretary Dawn Crim said. “I am pleased to bring this growth opportunity to Wisconsin auctioneers.”

Natalie Pratt, executive director of the Wisconsin Auctioneers Association, says this agreement is good for Wisconsin auctioneers, particularly those interested in expansion beyond Wisconsin or those with unique specializations in specific items or areas, such as coins, artwork or horse farms.

“This agreement allows Wisconsin auctioneers to develop news lines of business,” Pratt said. “We appreciate the effort agency staff put into negotiations and their commitment to see this through despite all the challenges of the past year. It reflects Secretary Crim’s dedication to the well-being of auctioneers and the auction industry.”


# COVID-19 vaccine updates: Respiratory therapist is first vaccine recipient in Wisconsin 


# State, Rural Health Officials Don’t Expect Issues Distributing Coronavirus Vaccine To Rural Wisconsin 


# Ag Groups Pleased with Climate Task Force Report 




– Wisconsin Farm Groups Applaud Tom Vilsack’s Nomination As U.S. Agriculture Secretary  https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-farm-groups-applaud-tom-vilsacks-nomination-u-s-agriculture-secretary 

– Wisconsin farmer plants soybeans in December https://brownfieldagnews.com/news/wisconsin-farmer-plants-soybeans-in-december/ 

– Talking Cover Crops https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2020/12/14/talking-cover-crops/ 


– Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes On Wisconsin Climate Change Strategies https://www.wpr.org/lt-gov-mandela-barnes-wisconsin-climate-change-strategies 


– Wisconsin nurses among first to get COVID-19 vaccine https://www.wisn.com/article/covid-19-wisconsin-nurses-among-first-to-get-vaccine/34949672# 

– COVID-19 vaccine goes from delivered to administered in just hours at UW Health https://www.channel3000.com/covid-19-vaccine-goes-from-delivered-to-administered-in-just-hours-at-uw-health/ 

– Walgreens says its Covid-19 vaccine program will begin Dec. 21 https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/walgreens-says-its-covid-vaccine-program-will.html 


– Wisconsin Supreme Court tosses Trump election lawsuit https://apnews.com/article/wisonsin-supreme-court-trump-lawsuit-e6b3aa222b4141c0844d541c


– Harley-Davidson sets Pan America reveal with Jason Momoa from ‘Aquaman’ https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/harley-davidson-sets-pan-america-reveal-momoa.html 


– Marilynn Mee’s position eliminated at WKLH-FM https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/marilynn-mees-position-eliminated-at-wklh-fm.html 


– Wisconsin electors certify state’s 10 Electoral College votes for Biden, Harris https://madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/wisconsin-electors-certify-states-10-electoral-college-votes-for-biden-harris/article_cb4abe24-b946-568a-ac28-093934946252.html


– Braving the cold: Many restaurants add outdoor structures to survive winter https://biztimes.com/braving-the-cold-many-restaurants-add-outdoor-structures-to-survive-winter/ 


– WEDC selects 231 small businesses to receive pandemic innovation grants https://biztimes.com/wedc-selects-231-small-businesses-to-receive-pandemic-innovation-grants/ 

– It’s a terrible time for small businesses. Except when it’s not. https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/terrible-time-for-small-businesses-except-if-not.html 


– Legal services technology company opening office in 3rd Ward, creating 75 jobs https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/legal-services-technology-company-to-open-office.html 


– Milwaukee County Zoo plans for uncertain 2021, hopeful for summer events https://www.bizjournals.com/milwaukee/news/2020/12/14/milwaukee-county-zoo-plans-for-uncertain-2021.html 


– Milwaukee County BRT project receives federal grant money, construction slated for spring https://biztimes.com/milwaukee-county-brt-project-receives-federal-grant-money-construction-slated-for-spring/ 


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