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Opinion: Time to give nuclear power another look?

Minnesota is planning for a carbon-free power system that will eliminate coal and gas plants, replaced with renewable wind and solar power sources. These renewable sources are, however, intermittent and cannot reliably supply power around the clock, creating a critical need for a baseload, non-carbon power source to maintain a reliable power grid.

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It’s time for more rational, adult, and bipartisan action on the climate change problem here in Minnesota.

One small, but critical, action would be for the Legislature to repeal the state moratorium on nuclear power.

This moratorium was enacted in 1984, when there was no critical need for further nuclear power and the public had major concerns about nuclear safety, construction cost and waste disposal. That has changed and it’s time to repeal this moratorium.

Minnesota is planning for a carbon-free power system that will eliminate coal and gas plants, replaced with renewable wind and solar power sources.

These renewable sources are, however, intermittent and cannot reliably supply power around the clock, creating a critical need for a baseload, non-carbon power source to maintain a reliable power grid.

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This was clearly demonstrated during the January 2019 polar vortex, which produced low winds and minus-20-degree temperatures over a five-state area. Wind turbine output dropped over 95% – or 11,000 megawatts, equivalent to the output of two Grand Coulee dams.

Climate scientists project similar future conditions as climate change causes further modification of the jet streams. Had this polar vortex occurred in the future when coal and gas plants were retired, with power demands much higher this would have produced major blackouts.

Some renewable proponents believe that future electric batteries can resolve this power outage, however, the magnitude of these outages make this impracticable. Thus, the critical need for a nuclear non-emitting power source.

Advanced nuclear plants, Generation IV, can resolve the issues that plagued existing water-cooled power plants. Current plants were designed in the 1950s and 60s with slide rule technology and vacuum tube computers.

Today’s technology of advanced tools, digital control, and improved metallurgy can produce safe, reliable modular designs that can be produced at lower cost and with shorter lead times.

A nuclear moratorium bill was passed in the Minnesota Senate last session with bipartisan support, but died in the House.

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