Letter to the editor: Need for advanced nuclear power is critical
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To the editor:
The Minnesota Legislature passed a moratorium on construction of new nuclear power plants in 1994. Changes since then warrant reconsideration and reversal of this decision.
Current nuclear plants, like Monticello, were designed in the 1950s with construction completed in the early 1970s. The design technology of these plants is archaic compared to today’s technology.
Advanced Generation 4 reactors are being developed with current technology which can resolve the concerns which resulted in this moratorium. Further, there is a critical need for future nuclear reactors to replace coal and gas plants that must be phased out to address climate change.
Coal plants are being phased out by Minnesota’s major power companies over the next decade to cut carbon emissions. Natural gas plants produce half the carbon emissions as coal, however, methane leaks from gas wells and pipelines seriously reduce this advantage.
Existing nuclear plants at Monticello and Prairie Island are carbon free and are licensed through 2030 with possible further license extensions. Rapidly expanding renewable wind and solar offer zero carbon emissions and low cost but cannot fully replace the base load capacity that would have been provided by coal and natural gas.
These renewables are dependent on fluctuations in weather conditions and offer only intermittent operation. Because of this, there is a critical need for zero emission advanced nuclear power. Several Generation IV demonstration plants are scheduled for operation in the next five years. Reversal of the Minnesota nuclear moratorium will provide a signal that new nuclear plants may be acceptable in Minnesota once they demonstrate safety, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.
Voltaire wrote “Perfect is the enemy of good.” While nuclear power is not a perfect solution, neither are the alternatives. We are facing an existential threat from climate change and must take advantage of all reasonable alternatives.