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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ind. Law - More on "Indiana rethinking nuclear energy plans"

Updating this ILB entry from yesterday, John Russell of the Indianapolis Star has this lengthy story today, headed "Indiana's interest in nuclear power is dampened: Lawmakers want to 'step back' from idea of an Indiana plant." Some quotes:

As Japan scrambles to control fires and radiation at its crippled nuclear power reactors, Indiana leaders are backing away from an effort to promote nuclear power here, and nuclear critics are stepping up their opposition.

Indiana, which has long relied on the state's abundant coal reserves for energy, has no nuclear plants. Neighboring states have 17 nuclear power plants, many of them more than 30 years old and approaching the end of their licensed life.

Just last month, the Indiana Senate passed legislation [SB 251] that would encourage the construction of the state's first nuclear plant or perhaps a small, modular nuclear plant. The bill would provide financial incentives to companies to build a nuclear plant, allowing them to pass along construction costs to customers years before the plant goes into operation. * * *

"With the events in Japan, I think you really need to take a step back," said Sen. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, one of the bill's authors. "I think it's going to take months, if not years, for an investigation to get to the source of the problem." * * *

But some Indiana lawmakers say they continue to support nuclear energy, despite the problems in Japan. They say the technology has improved in recent decades, and the safety record is good overall.

"Nuclear energy is an alternative we need to consider," said Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis. "For us to stick our heads in the sand is not responsible. . . . The truth is, we are faced with a dilemma. How do we meet the growing needs of electricity?" * * *

The Midwest is awash in aging nuclear plants, some built in the mid-1970s. Illinois has 11 nuclear plants. Michigan has four and Ohio has two. * * *

There hasn't been a new nuclear plant built in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island accident near Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979, when a partial core meltdown ignited widespread opposition to nuclear power. Two separate efforts in Indiana to build nuclear power plants here in the 1980s were scrapped in the face of rising opposition and high costs.

The Northern Indiana Public Service Co. had proposed a 644-megawatt Bailly Nuclear Power Plant at a site near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1967. It was never built. And Public Service Indiana proposed the Marble Hill Nuclear Power Station, with two nuclear reactors, in southeast Indiana in 1973. The company halted the project in 1984 when it was half-built. PSI was nearly bankrupted by the effort and was later bought by Cinergy, now part of Duke Energy.

"Both projects fell down under the weight of economics of building nuclear reactors. It's just too expensive," said Kerwin Olson, program director at Citizens Action of Indiana, which opposes nuclear energy. [ILB: SB 251 was designed to address that problem, by permitting CWIP]

But Indiana does receive electricity from a nuclear plant in southern Michigan, less than an hour north of South Bend.

Most of the output from the Cook Nuclear Power Plant, operated by the Indiana Michigan Power Co., goes to power homes and businesses in Northern Indiana. The plant, with two reactors, went online in the mid-1970s, and is licensed to operate for at least another two decades.

For more on Cook, see this entry from yesterday, headed "Japan: Could similar disaster happen here?"

[More] At 10:06 am on the NPR Diane Rehm show, Japan's Nuclear Crisis and Its Impact on the Nuclear Industry." The audio will be archived.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2011 09:34 AM
Posted to Indiana Law