2009/10/09:Here we go again: Pro-nuclear legislators push to repeal 'moratorium'

State legislators who want more nuclear reactors in Wisconsin are ready to try again, with a bill to repeal what is commonly, and incorrectly, called the state's nuclear moratorium law.

The usual suspects, State Reps. Mike Huebsch and Phil Montgomery and State Sen. Joe Leibham, are circulating a draft of their proposal and looking for co-sponsors before introducing it. Current law does not prohibit new nuclear reactors. It simply sets two requirements before a new nuclear plant can be licensed:

(1) That a federally-licensed facility be available to dispose of the high-level radioactive waste generated by the reactors, and (2) that the Public Service Commission make a finding that nuclear power makes economic sense for consumers.

That has amounted to a de facto moratorium on news plants because there is no safe, permanent way to dispose of the radioactive waste, which is so deadly it must be kept out of the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. The nuclear industry has been producing the waste for more than 50 years, but has not solved the problem. Instead, it wants to change the rules.

We've been down this road before. Legislation was introduced in the last three legislative sessions to repeal the law. The 2003 bill died without action. In 2005, a pair of Assembly and Senate bills died in their respective committees. But last session, the bill cleared the Assembly 57-38, but died for lack of action in the Senate. Republican Huebsch, the main sponsor, was Assembly Speaker at the time. Last fall, Democrats took control, which may change the outcome in the Assembly, too.

In each of the last three sessions, environmental groups, WNPJ, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Citizens Utility Board and others formed coalitions to successfully defend the current law. A coalition of 14 groups already is in place this time and will again work to defeat the bills. Learn more and get involved.