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Is it time to lift the nuclear ban?

Is it time to lift the nuclear ban?
Aging nuclear plants generate one-fifth of the state’s electricity. But new facilities are outlawed. Coal faces environmental worries. Natural gas prices are soaring. And demand keeps growing.
By THOMAS CONTENT
tcontent@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Sept. 23, 2006

Worldwide, 28 nuclear power plants are under construction. In the United States, where the last new reactor was completed in 1996, 16 plants are on the drawing board, mostly in the South.

In Wisconsin, which relies on nuclear power for one-fifth of its electricity, the state's two nuclear plants are aging, both more than 30 years old.

With concerns growing about the greenhouse gases released by coal-fired plants and about the tripling of natural gas prices in recent years, and with electricity demand growing at 2% a year, is it time for Wisconsin to overturn its ban on new nuclear plants and consider plans to build a new one here?

"There will come a day, sometime in the next five to eight years, when I think the state will have to have the debate (on a new plant)," said Gale Klappa, chairman, president and chief executive of Wisconsin Energy Corp., the state's largest utility.

The moratorium itself already is being debated. A legislative committee assessing the role of nuclear power in Wisconsin's future will tour the Point Beach nuclear plant this week. The radioactive issue is also entering the political arena as the Nov. 7 election nears: Gov. Jim Doyle and Republican challenger Mark Green are divided over whether Wisconsin should explore new nuclear plants.

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