The Fukushima effect

Earlier this year, it looked like several Midwest states were going to pass key legislation opening the doors for new nuclear plant construction.

Then a nuclear plant in Japan exploded.

At the time, of course, it was unclear what the impact would be. The reality is, even before Fukushima, there really wasn’t a “nuclear renaissance,” despite a pervasive media narrative to the contrary. So, as we reported in March, the disaster wasn’t expected to have much of an impact. It’s tough for an industry to change course when it’s not really moving in the first place.

However, as legislative sessions wrap up, it appears the disaster contributed to the demise of nuclear legislation in at least three states.

In Minnesota, a bill to lift the state’s nuclear moratorium was initially considered almost certain to pass, but . But the St. Cloud Times reported earlier this month that the committee tasked with reconciling differences between House ans Senate versions of the bill hadn’t met for months. “With the timing, I think that’s on pause right now,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told the Times.

In Iowa, a controversial bill that would have allowed MidAmerican Energy to recover nuclear plant development costs from ratepayers, even if a plant is never built. No action has been taken on the bill in either chamber since late April, and last week, state Rep. Jeff Kaufmann told the Muscatine Journal that the bill isn’t going to pass this session.

A similar bill in Missouri melted down (sorry) in the final days of the legislative session. The bill would have allowed utilities to charge ratepayers $45 million to obtain a site permit for what would have been the state’s second nuclear reactor (as in Iowa). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that lawmakers declined to take action on the bill because they didn’t have time to read the final version.

One exception was Indiana‘s “clean energy standard” bill, which Gov. Mitch Daniels signed earlier this month. In addition to creating a voluntary goal for utilities to get 10 percent of their energy from “clean” sources, the bill contained a provision, similar to the Iowa and Missouri efforts, that would pass nuclear development costs on to ratepayers.

Photo by Thierry Ehrmann via Creative Commons

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