Saturday, August 24, 2013

Will Mississippi be Nation's Nuclear Waste Dump?

Nuclear Power Plant Owner Mr. Burns from The Simpsons
Last night, the Clarion-Ledger reported that representatives of the Mississippi Energy Institute will speak before Senate Economic Development Committee to pitch the idea of making Mississippi the new home of nuclear waste.

Proponents argue that Mississippi is set to benefit from millions of dollars in federal spending, which Governor Bryant and his tea party base have long opposed, to support construction and on-site jobs. They also note that in the event nuclear power generation increases, our state will already have the capacity in place to store any waste products.

Opponents argue that Mississippi has been through this debate before. It did not go well then and likely won't go well now. Supporters of nuclear power include Northern Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley. Even he has stated his opposition to this plan noting, "As a pro-nuclear PSC who voted to expand Grand Gulf, I have to balk at making MS the nation's septic tank for nuclear waste."

Since the Fukushima disaster, discussions of nuclear energy and waste storage have been a touchy subject. Countries like Germany are taking steps to get out of the nuclear energy market entirely while countries like Spain have halted construction of new nuclear power plants. Germany and Spain decided to look to the sun to provide their energy needs. It has worked out to be tremendously beneficial for them.

Mississippi has seen its fair share of energy production disasters. Recent oil and natural gas spills in the Gulf of Mexico have severely damaged ecosystems, crippled industry, and diminished tourism - all of which impact our quality of life and weaken our state's finances. God forbid another major hurricane devastate the Coast. A super storm and nuclear waste? What could go wrong?

Nuclear power generation is not likely to gain momentum anytime soon. In 2012 alone, sustainable energy sources like wind and solar made up nearly 50 percent of new energy additions in the United States. Sustainable energy production is growing rapidly with the assistance of forward-thinking governors and state legislatures wishing to diversify their energy mixes. It's worth noting that as sustainable energy markets grow, nuclear energy production will likely remain where it is today, if not lower.

What is Governor Bryant going to do? Will he tell the federal government, as he typically does, "thanks, but no thanks" and walk away from the deal? Could he ignore his tea party principles, accept the federal money, and upset his base? Will he shake his fist at the federal government with one hand while quietly taking the money with the other? He has painted himself into another tight corner on this one.

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