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Our Opinion: Let conversation on nuclear plant continue

Our Opinion: Let conversation on nuclear plant continue

April 21st, 2011 in News

A procedural move blocking legislation on financing a new nuclear plant is indicative of a larger problem - opposing factions remain too far apart.

And the disparity over financing may indicate a larger disagreement on the future of nuclear power.

Let's begin at the beginning.

Ameren, an investor-owned utility company, is interested in building a second nuclear power plant near its existing Callaway Nuclear Plant at Reform, northeast of Jefferson City. A stumbling block is the anticipated construction cost, estimated in the billions of dollars.

After Callaway I was announced but before it was built, Missouri voters in 1976 approved a law called Construction Work In Progress (CWIP). The law prohibits utilities from charging its customers for facility planning and construction until the plant is producing and delivering power.

In an attempt to overcome the stumbling block, an idea was advanced by Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future, a coalition of utility, business and labor groups.

The idea was legislation to allow a utility to charge customers for the cost of applying for an early site permit, but only if the application is successful.

Among lawmakers sponsoring such legislation are two Mid-Missourians - Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane.

The legislation was sidetracked in the Senate on Tuesday by a procedural motion from a senator who believes it doesn't contain adequate safeguards for consumers.

But, to paraphrase humorist Mark Twain, rumors of its demise may be greatly exaggerated.

Ample arguments can be advanced concerning the relatively safety and risk of nuclear power. Opinions also can be offered pertaining to its contribution as a source of "clean" energy. This session, the issue has centered on financing to seek an early site permit. We lament discussion on the legislation has stalled. Debate and deliberation are part of the process of bridging impasses and building consensus. The conversation about nuclear power deserves to be continued.