Going nuclear


Next week, for the second year in a row, the Minnesota Legislature is poised to vote on a repeal of Minnesota’s nuclear power plant ban. The law currently prohibits the construction of new nuclear power plants, though there are two plants currently in operation, one at Prairie Island and one in Monticello. Last year the same bill came up at the legislature and the Senate passed the bill though the House did not. The passage of such a bill represents a regression in Minnesota’s energy policy and does not fit well with Macalester’s future energy plans.Currently, Macalester is considering installing solar panels on campus – specifically on Markim Hall. The building was built to support electricity generating panels, though the costs of receiving LEED Platinum certification prevented the purchase of panels at the time of construction. As the college waits to hear about grants to enable the purchase of panels, a policy favoring nuclear power plants would not bode well for future clean energy development.

Nuclear power, regardless of whether it’s safe or not, is expensive. New power plants are estimated to cost between $7 million and $15 million and charge consumers a rate of 20 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. Currently, Minnesotans pay, on average, 12 cents-per-kilowatt-hour, meaning new nuclear power would raise their rates. However, due to the political support behind nuclear and its low carbon footprint, a policy supporting nuclear – such as the proposed moratorium repeal – would distract from cheaper and safer energy solutions. Renewable energy capital ready for investment in solar and wind renewables could be used in the fiscal boondoggle that is nuclear energy. The rate of clean energy development is at stake with this bill.

For the betterment of Macalester, as it applies for grants and investigates funding options for purchasing solar panels for Markim Hall, the repeal of Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium could stall Macalester’s clean energy development. As Macalester pursues more sustainable energy policies, the state should too.

The opinions expressed above are those of The Mac Weekly, as determined by the staff. The perspectives are not representative of Macalester College.