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City ups ante in nuclear fight

City officials want the federal government to hold up its end of the bargain when it comes to nuclear waste.

Red Wing City Council voted Monday to send a letter to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson asking her to sue the federal government for failing to take care of nuclear waste.

The federal government is required to pick up nuclear waste from facilities like the Prairie Island nuclear plant, Council member Lisa Bayley said, but hasn't been doing so.

"They are way behind on fulfilling their obligations," Bayley said, adding that with a central storage site at Yucca Mountain out of the picture, things are even more precarious.

As part of their utilities bill, ratepayers pay into a fund for the federal government to deal with nuclear waste storage, Bayley said.

Minnesotans have already paid more than $734 million into the federal nuclear waste fund, Red Wing Finance Director Marshall Hallock said.

The council members would like to see the money refunded or the federal government commit to taking care of the waste.

Three states - Connecticut, New York and Vermont - already have sued the federal government on the nuclear waste storage issue, challenging a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission policy that waste can be safely stored at nuclear power plans for 60 years after a reactor is out of service.

Other states have suits in the works as well, Bayley said.

Council members on the Nuclear Waste Committee met with Xcel Energy officials last week, and Bayley said the company is gathering information for the state for a triennial study of costs of decommissioning and storing nuclear waste.

Originally the cost estimates were based on the assumption that the federal government would pick up the waste sometime in the next few years, Bayley said. But now Xcel is preparing cost scenarios for storing the waste for 60 years and 200 years after reactors are shut down.

Council member Peggy Rehder said the city already has asked the Legislature to address this issue, but hasn't had any indication that that request is moving forward. She said the letter gives the city more options.

"It's another way of attacking the same problem," she said.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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