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Stokes: “Kick Anti-CWIP Laws to the Curb”

March 18th, 2009 by mopns · No Comments

Show-Me Institute policy analyst David Stokes points out that Missouri’s anti-CWIP legislation was passed during the 1970s, during the height of fears about nuclear energy safety. Attitudes about nuclear power have changed in recent years, thanks in no small part to excellent track records by other countries that use nuclear facilities as a primary means of power generation.

Although the debate over nuclear power has not ended altogether, Stokes suggests that arguments over waste storage and safety should be carried out on their own merits in the regulatory and political realm, rather than using a regulatory financial gimmick to stop plant construction.

By David Stokes

AmerenUE hopes to convince legislators to rescind the 1976 law that prevents utilities from funding expansions by charging current customers to pay for the financing and interest charges for projects that are still under construction. The law was passed by voters in a referendum as part of an attempt by anti-nuclear power activists to stop the construction of the first Callaway Nuclear Generating Station. Whether Missourians voted for this ban on construction-work-inprogress (CWIP) out of opposition to nuclear power or, more likely, a desire to keep electric bills lower, the proposition was not placed on the ballot because of a carefully considered economic objection to CWIP financing plans in general. Rather, it was part of a serious effort specifically targeted at blocking the construction of a nuclear power plant.

Our attitudes toward nuclear power have changed during the past 33 years, thanks to decades of its successful use in the United States. President Barack Obama included a promise to “find ways to safely harness nuclear power” in his recent campaign stump speeches. According to Newsweek, nuclear power provides 20 percent of the power in America, but represents 70 percent of emission-free energy.

Building on those changes in attitude, AmerenUE hopes to initiate the second phase of the Callaway plant, which was originally planned for the 1970s but delayed in no small part because of the anti-CWIP law. Given the enormous cost of constructing a new nuclear
reactor, and the financing difficulties inherent in today’s economic climate, AmerenUE cannot build Callaway II while the anti-CWIP law remains in place. So, while issues involving nuclear regulation are usually quite complex, the choice facing Missouri is fairly simple: allow AmerenUE to charge existing customers — you and I — to fund Callaway II; or keep anti-CWIP regulations and do without a new nuclear power plant, eliminating one opportunity to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Read more…

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