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Minnesota House votes to scrap ban on building nuclear plants

ST. PAUL - Minnesota representatives Thursday rejected an attempt to require a local vote before a nuclear power plant is built as they decided to lift a ban on building those plants.

ST. PAUL - Minnesota representatives Thursday rejected an attempt to require a local vote before a nuclear power plant is built as they decided to lift a ban on building those plants.

On an 81-50 vote, the House joined the Senate in dropping a 16-year-old moratorium on building new nuclear power plants. Gov. Mark Dayton, who has expressed concerns about storage of nuclear waste and power plant costs, could veto the bill.

The House bill now heads for the Senate, where members could accept the slightly different language passed on Thursday or reject it and send it to negotiations.

One major difference between the House and Senate bills is that senators would require regular studies on the cost of storing nuclear waste next to power plants. The other difference is an amendment offered by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, on Thursday to forbid the reprocessing of nuclear waste into weapons-grade plutonium.

If Dayton rejects the measure, Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson, said, "I think it would be very difficult to override a veto."

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Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said her bill would not require a new power plant, and one probably could not be built for 10 to 15 years, but under the current moratorium on new plants, "we have taken them off the table."

No utility has said it is interested in a new nuclear plant, which would cost billions of dollars.

Among the amendments killed in the House was one that would have required voters in the area of a proposed plant to approve it.

"Why should we not let the people decide?" asked Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township.

The northern Minnesota lawmaker said the state made a mistake in 1994 when it allowed nuclear waste to be stored 600 yards from the Prairie Island Indian Community near Red Wing.

Supporters argued that existing rules and laws would guarantee safety if state authorities voted to approve a new plant.

An amendment Hilty introduced, which failed, would have limited how much utilities could collect from customers for construction costs before a plant begins operations.

House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, called the measure a jobs bill because it has the potential of creating more work if a plant is built.

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Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707

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