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Nuke bill amended in Senate to include long-term storage study

The bill in the Minnesota Senate that would repeal a ban on nuclear power plants now also requires study of potential costs associated with storing nuclear waste within the state for hundreds of years.

Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, was able to convince the Senate Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee Thursday to amend the bill allowing for new nuclear power plants.

Under the amended bill, utility companies and Public Utilities Commission would have to file reports every three years on the potential costs of storing nuclear waste within the state for periods of 60, 100 and 200 years following the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant.

"I think it's terrific news," Red Wing City Council member Lisa Bayley told the R-E Friday. Bayley and other council members praised Howe for his efforts.

While the federal government has promised to take responsibility for nation's nuclear waste, recent developments regarding Yucca Mountain - the now defunct national depository for nuclear waste - have caused alarm among local officials, state lawmakers and utility companies.

Now many are skeptical of the federal government's claims. They are concerned waste stored on site at nuclear power plants may remain there indefinitely.

The bill is not scheduled for any more committees in the Senate and may go a floor vote as early as next week.

Howe said he believes the amendment will make the bill more attractive to Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton has expressed ambivalence about signing the repeal bill.

Meanwhile, the bill's companion in the House has not been amended to include the storage language and remains a "clean bill."

Red Wing's representative in that chamber, Republican Tim Kelly, has said he would prefer that bill stay that way.

Kelly said he too is concerned about long-term nuclear storage issues.

But he said local and state officials should work out an agreement with Xcel Energy - which operates the two nuclear power plants in Minnesota located in Red Wing and Monticello - instead of issuing a new mandate.

Kelly noted that Xcel is also concerned about the long-term storage issue.

"We're all in this together," Kelly told the R-E Friday. "Let's sit down and talk about it instead of mandating it."

Red Wing City Council member Peggy Rehder, who testified on the issue before the Energy Committee Tuesday, said she and her colleagues will keep their eye on the bill as it travels through the Legislature.

She noted the bill still has a ways to go.

"It's still too early to say anything definite on it," Rehder said of the bill's ultimate chances of becoming law.