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Nuclear emissions study proposed

Published (3/18/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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Ever since Prairie Island Nuclear Plant became operational in the early 1970s, the people of the Prairie Island Indian Community have been worried. Homes on the tribe’s land sit just 600 yards from more than two dozen nuclear waste storage casks.

Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Mpls) sponsors HF3519, which would create multiple work groups to study the radiation and heat discharge coming from the plant. One group would focus on radioactive emissions and include representatives from state and local government, community groups and plant operators, Xcel Energy. The second group would be comprised of independent experts charged with studying the thermal discharge entering the Mississippi River. Both groups would be required to report back to the Legislature on how monitoring could be improved.

Clark’s bill was approved by the House Housing Finance and Policy and Public Health Finance Division March 17 on an 8-4 roll call vote and sent to the House Finance Committee. A companion, SF3272, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes (DFL-Winona), awaits action by the Senate Energy, Utilities, Technology and Communications Committee.

Xcel Energy is already required to monitor and report plant emissions in accordance with standards set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. While the Department of Health verifies Xcel’s monitoring procedures, their reports are not particularly user-friendly for everyday people trying to interpret the results.

“How do we know how good this so-called ‘clean energy’ can be to us if we don’t have an awareness of what it’s actually doing to us?” asked Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights).

Patrick Flowers, water quality manager for Xcel Energy, said the company is in the midst of preparing reports for the PUC that will address the issues facing the proposed work groups. He called approval of Clark’s bill “premature” in light of the pending results.

Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) agreed, asking Clark if her bill could wait.

“I just think we’ve asked this community to wait for several generations,” Clark replied. “They’re tired of waiting.”

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