April 20, 2011: Wisconsin Nuclear Expansion Plan: Groups Advise Caution

  • April 20, 2011
Leah Steinberg

For Immediate Release: April 20, 2011

Wisconsin Nuclear Expansion Plan: Groups Advise Caution

Madison, WI – As Japanese workers continue to struggle to gain control over radiation leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) and Clean Wisconsin urge the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to postpone its decision on expanding the Point Beach Nuclear Plant by 17%, or 90 megawatts at each of the two reactors.

In a letter filed today with the NRC, the consumer and environmental groups asked the agency to postpone acting on NextEra Energy’s application to increase the output of the two reactors until NRC completes its analysis of the lessons learned from the severe nuclear disaster in Japan. The NRC recently convened a Task Force to conduct both short-term and long-term analyses of U.S. reactor safety in light of concerns about the reliability of cooling systems, spent fuel pools, and reactor designs.

“The NRC responded quickly and efficiently to the crisis by sending experts directly to Fukushima and convening a Task Force to analyze what the U.S. can learn from the catastrophe there,” said Charlie Higley, executive director of CUB. “The results of their work will be invaluable to improve the safety of reactors in this country, and it only makes sense that we see those results before expanding the output of the Point Beach reactors.”

A delay in the decision to expand Point Beach won?t harm anyone, say the groups, because the extra power is not needed.

“Wisconsin and the Midwest have an oversupply of electric generation for the foreseeable future. Given our concerns about the safety of pushing these old reactors to get more power, we’re asking the NRC to take a ‘go-slow’ approach,” said Katie Nekola, attorney for Clean Wisconsin. In fact, it is uncertain whether any Wisconsin utility will purchase the extra power that would be produced if Point Beach is expanded. The plant’s owner, NextEra Energy, is a Florida-based merchant company which could sell the excess power to other states.

The NRC Task Force’s short-term analysis could be published as early as July of this year, and its long-term analysis will be important to improve the safety of reactors in the United States.