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Senate votes to lift nuclear ban

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota senators Thursday voted to end a long-time moratorium on nuclear-power plant construction.

The long-divisive issue passed 42-24 as an amendment to an overall energy bill that later received tentative Senate approval.

"Nuclear power is clean," Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, said. "Nuclear power is good and we need to continue it."

Dille said he was surprised that his amendment passed. But he was not confident the provision would remain after House-Senate negotiations on the overall energy bill.

"I guess the answer is how they construct the conference committee," he said of whether the House-Senate negotiating panel gets stacked with moratorium supporters.

The provision only would lift the ban to allow nuclear energy to be considered. It does not require construction of a new nuclear plant.

Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, earlier this legislative session withdrew a bill to end the moratorium, citing lack of support. A House committee defeated a version of the moratorium.

The sponsor of the overall energy bill said the issue needs discussion, but problems with waste nuclear fuel storage remain serious.

"I think it does need further discussion," Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, said. "I feel there still are significant questions about storage that need to be addressed."

Prettner Solon said that while she was glad to have the discussion about the measure, the House supports the moratorium, so the law likely will remain as is.

Sen. Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, said the waste danger is too great to consider lifting the moratorium. She was involved when legislators passed the moratorium in 1994.

Davis works for Forum Communciations Co., which owns the Daily Globe.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.