The past week brought important news from state legislatures regarding nuclear power plants. Minnesota voted to lift a 17-year ban on new nuclear plants; a bill that would allow utilities to recoup costs for early site permits advanced in Missouri; and the Indiana Senate is preparing, amid controversy, to vote on a key measure that could incentivize development and construction of new nuclear generation in that state.

Minn. House Votes to Lift Nuclear Ban
Minnesota’s House of Representatives on Thursday voted 81-50 to lift a 17-year moratorium on new nuclear builds in the state. The bill, sponsored by legislators Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) now goes back to the Senate, which passed a version of the bill 50-14 on Feb. 2.

The bill, SF 4, was passed after three hours of debate. It allows the state’s Pubic Utilities Commission to issue a certificate of need for the construction or expansion of nuclear power plants. Multiple DFL-sponsored amendments were debated but only one passed. Offered by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis), that amendment restricts reprocessing spent nuclear power plant fuel into weapons-grade plutonium.

The amendment fulfills one of three conditions outlined by Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who would need to sign the bill before it becomes law. Other conditions include setting down ratepayer protections and assurances of no net increases in nuclear waste.

No new nuclear plants have been proposed in the state—though two facilities exist, operated by Xcel Energy, at Monticello and Prairie Island.

Sources: POWERnews, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Mo. House Passes Early Site Permit Recovery Cost Bill for Callaway Expansion
Missouri’s House Utilities Committee voted 21-2 to pass a bill on Tuesday that would allow utilities in that state to recoup ratepayers’ development costs for a second nuclear power plant.

House bill 124 would allow a consortium of utilities—including Ameren Missouri, Empire District Electric, Kansas City Power & Light, electric cooperatives, and municipal utilities—to recover the roughly $40 million costs associated with obtaining an early site permit for a proposed second reactor at the Callaway Nuclear Plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The utilities have not decided whether they will build the second plant near Fulton, in Callaway County. The bill challenges a 1976 voter-approved law that prohibits power companies from charging customers for a new power plant before it is operational.

Sources: POWERnews, Missouri House

Indiana Senate Set to Vote on Key Energy Bill
The Indiana Senate is expected to vote on Monday on a bill that could offer utilities incentives to build the state’s first nuclear power plants.

The bill, SB 251, strongly opposed by environmentalists and consumer groups, earlier in February cleared the Senate Utilities and Technology Committee after hours of heated discussion. It would allow utilities that build cleaner coal and nuclear power plants to recover costs from consumers. A provision would allow power firms to specifically recover costs associated with designing, licensing, and permitting nuclear power plants. If it passes the GOP-controlled Senate, the bill would move to the House, also a Republican stronghold.

“Our bill encourages utilities to ramp-up on renewable energy—wind, solar, agriculture products and hydro power—yet it avoids imposing government mandates like high-energy cost states have unwisely done,” bill sponsors Sen. Beverly Gard (R-Greenfield), Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Lafayette), and Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) wrote in an open letter. "Rather than dictating a one-size-fits-all solution, utilities can select from a menu of options to develop the best strategy for their customers, geographic area and investors.”

Sources: POWERnews, Indiana Senate