Walz takes the wrong side on nuclear power


Reps. Tim Walz (D) and Erik Paulsen (R) penned an editorial in Wednesday’s Star Tribune (surf there at your own risk of malware and other cooties). In it they argue that the moratorium on building new nuclear plants needs to be lifted. I couldn’t disagree more strenuously.

I really don’t want to do this as I’m a big fan of Tim’s and I personally like him a lot, but I have to point out a few things. Despite what I’m about to say, I still think he’s a great Representative.  

What Tim is doing is validating their tired, old and debunked arguments.

For decades, the debate over nuclear energy has been stalled, largely along ideological lines. During that time, our nation’s primary energy sources have drastically narrowed. Our emissions have increased. High and volatile energy prices have become standard. As a result, our nation is heavily reliant on energy sources that come from countries and regions often hostile to our interests.

Stalled along ideological lines, eh? What about stalled because enough politicians have listened to reason? Paulsen and Walz oversimplify by claiming that we either have coal or nuclear power as options. This is the argument that the polluters, the nuclear lobby and politicians like Erik Paulsen have been advancing to prevent any serious investment in green energy technology. And Tim is playing right into it.

You wouldn’t know from this op-ed that Tim has worked hard on green energy solutions. You’d think he was a corporate Dem more concerned about his corporate donors’ interests than the needs of Minnesotans. The opposite is true.

Essentially, Paulsen and Walz argue that we must consider nuclear power because we have to reduce our carbon output. The problem is it’s not just about the carbon. The fact that Paulsen oversimplifies the issue is not surprising — he’s bought and paid for by Corporate America. But the fact that Walz agrees with him is not good.

If nuclear power is so safe, why will no insurance company insure a plant? Isn’t there some kind of law to cover the nuclear industry’s butt because nobody will insure them? Yea … thought so.

If it’s so safe, let’s build it upriver from Mankato on the Minnesota river. Then let’s build the storage facility in Tim’s neighborhood. Oh … don’t like the idea so much now? It’s going to have to go upriver from somebody and we’ll have to store the spent fuel rods and other toxic by-products next door to somebody.

Next consider that a nuke plant uses more water than any other kind of energy source. Typically around 390 billion gallons per year for your average nuke plant. In addition, the water exiting the plant is often toxic. This water would have to go into a river somewhere and I don’t think Tim’s neighbors would want it in the Minnesota.

Furthermore, Paulsen and Walz flippantly dismiss wind and solar with “Unlike with some renewable sources, we can count on it (nuclear power) for consistent power — come rain, snow, sun or clouds.”  Walz should know that the wind blows pretty much all the time out in western MN and it’s plenty sunny.  

Paulsen and Walz also fail to recognize the impact that energy savings measures might accomplish. Think of all the people we could employ making existing homes more energy efficient. They fail to recognize the unrealized potential of the combination of wind, solar, geothermal and energy conservation. Paulsen has never wanted it, but Walz?  Shame.

Building a new nuke plant will raise everyone’s rates. Even if you don’t get any of your electricity from the plant. Nuke plants require massive government subsidies to make profits for their owners. Fundamentally, taxpayers subsidize the profits for the owners — nuclear plants are always a bad deal for taxpayers.

Paulsen and Walz want us all to ignore the lifecycle cost of a nuclear plant. Mining uranium is incredibly destructive and expensive. Enriching uranium takes massive amounts of energy plus most enriching facilities are coal powered. Finally, we have no solution to dealing with the waste. We have to store this waste for many, many millions of years.  

Paulsen and Walz fail to recognize the true cost and impact of nuclear power plants and want us to ignore the voice of reason on this issue. While this is typical behavior for Erik Paulsen, I am truly saddened that Tim Walz is siding with the polluters, the nuclear lobby and those like Paulsen who oppose green energy solutions.