City Council members weigh in on mayor's Ameren letter

Sunday, February 15, 2009 | 8:37 p.m. CST; updated 10:34 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 18, 2009

COLUMBIA – For the Columbia City Council, nuclear energy is a complex conversation with many details and opinions to weigh. And most say they want to be consulted before the mayor or city staff take an official stance on a proposed nuclear plant in Callaway County.

Mayor Darwin Hindman was the first to express his views when he sent a letter to AmerenUE President and CEO Thomas Voss expressing personal interest in the proposed construction of the second Callaway nuclear plant. The letter included that Hindman’s support also assumed that “power from the plant must be made available to Columbia.”

Hindman views nuclear energy as a better alternative to Columbia’s municipal coal plant.

“I’m very concerned about climate change,” he said. “It’s clean (nuclear energy), so I favor it.”

He also expressed interest in alternative energies such as solar and wind but believes those alternatives aren’t capable of taking a leading role in the city’s energy production.

“I’m convinced that we will not be able to supply our base power that way,” Hindman said.

Hindman’s explicit opinion of nuclear energy and support of the second Callaway plant has struck a chord with some city council members but mostly because that opinion was expressed on city letterhead.

“I don’t have a disagreement with the position he expressed,” Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said. “My concern is that with the letter being sent on city letterhead and under the title of mayor, he is representing an official position that should have been discussed with the council. The way the letter was done, it's representing more than just a personal opinion.”

Wade would like to have more information on how nuclear energy would be implemented before he can take a stance on the issue. Several years ago, Wade said, he was strongly opposed to nuclear power but now he has moderated his opposition.

First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe all had similar opinions of Hindman's letter, including that some sort of discussion should have taken place before it was sent.

“There are various procedural process concerns,” Hoppe said. “It needs to be a City Council discussion so every citizen is represented. I guess I feel rather strongly about that.”

For Sturtz, Skala and Hoppe, however, their opinions on nuclear energy itself aren't exactly congruous. Skala is open to the use of nuclear energy although he wants to avoid focusing too heavily on it.

"I'd rather have nuclear energy than use dirty coal technology," Skala said. "But I don't want to get stuck in the trap that we have to buy nuclear power because we didn't invest in clean technology. We are kind of in a bind here."

Hoppe, on the other hand, believes that there are a variety of problems with nuclear power and that those problems must be "analyzed and discussed and compared with other energy options."

Instead of nuclear, Sturtz would rather have the city put more effort into conservation and efficiency standards.

"Per capita in California, they are using about 50 percent of what we use (energy wise) and it's not just because of the good weather," Sturtz said. "We have a long way to go before we try something as expensive and risky as nuclear power."

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser did not return phone calls Friday and Saturday.

Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku, who is not seeking re-election after his term ends this April, commented that it was OK for Hindman to express himself as an individual.

He also emphasized that if something concerning nuclear energy ever did reach the City Council, it would have to be in the form of an ordinance or resolution and the public would be able to express themselves.

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Mike Martin February 15, 2009 | 9:39 p.m.

Is this the same letter we reported nearly two weeks ago?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 16, 2009 | 3:55 a.m.

Columbia Heartbeat I believe that is correct.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dugan February 16, 2009 | 2:17 p.m.

This is exactly why Barbara Hoppe and Paul Sturtz should NEVER be put on the Council again. PLEASE make sure to vote AGAINST them the next time. Reliable clean energy is what will ensure we all have jobs and affordable bills in the future. Wind and Solar are not viable options, and while conservation is great it won't solve the issue. Business's and Jobs go where the electricity is cheap and plentiful. If we limit such access, we limit our ability as a community to sustain and grow ourselves.

(Report Comment)
Traci Wilson-Kleekamp February 16, 2009 | 2:58 p.m.

I think it is appropriate to discuss all options -- and I also believe Karl and Barbara are excellent representatives.
There was an interesting conversation on the Diane Rehm show about Green Collar jobs and a discussion about the viability of energy alternatives: Check it out.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr February 16, 2009 | 3:48 p.m.

It was not right of Mayor Hiney to use City letter head.

He does not represent my views so how dare he say he represents all of Columbia's views.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 16, 2009 | 8:02 p.m.

Chuck, he didn't say he represented everyone's views. No elected official represents the views of all of his constituents.

No, he shouldn't have used city letterhead - I agree.

I would like to see Callaway 2 be built if in doing so Ameren can shut down some of it's older coal plants. Renewables and efficiency are great, but will not allow Ameren to shut down all of their older coal plants. Spending the cost of Callaway 2 on renewables and efficiency will result in a 400 MW deficit compared to building it, and it will be more difficult for Ameren to fund.


(Report Comment)
Jeff Eerkens February 18, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.

Darwin Hindman is one of the best common-sense mayors Columbia has ever had! If he thinks Callaway-2 is good for Columbia, I see no reason why he can not say that on city letterhead. Green nuclear power is the only practical solution to (1) avoid dependence on foreign oil and gas, (2) overcome future oil and gas depletion, and (3) ameliorate global warming. Only coal and uranium can affordably deliver terawatts of prime electricity to: (a) feed heavy industry (manufacturing cars, ships, airplanes, bridges, etc); (b) power vast fleets of future electric plug-in autos; and (c) help produce enormous quantities of oil-replacing portable synfuels and biofuels for long-haul transport. But coal worsens global warming and should be preserved as raw material to make plastics and organics when oil and gas are gone. This leaves uranium as the sole "big-mama" energy source to give the world 3000 years of all the electricity and heat it needs. Popular solar and wind energy are useful for small-quantity power generation in select locations and may contribute as much as 10% of future electricity. But at terawatt levels, immense areas of land are needed, requiring enormous maintenance operations, spoiling scenic landscapes, and destroying local ecosystems - an absolute nightmare for naturalists! As scientifically documented in "The Nuclear Imperative" (ISBN 1-4020-4930-7), by the year 2050 when petroleum fuels are exhausted, only uranium and thorium can affordably sustain global energy needs for some 3000 years, using proven fuel reprocessing and advanced fast reactor technology. An in-depth study of future energy needs by professional engineers (not by anti-nuclear armchair philosophers) shows nuclear power is essential to rescue our children from economic collapse. For the US, 500 additional nuclear reactors are needed by 2050, built on 9000 acres (@ $1.5 trillion), compared to 1,500,000 windmills with storage batteries on 6,000,000 acres (@ $4.5 trillion). Costs are in 2004 dollars to be multiplied by the dollar inflation factor for later years. Contrary to false propaganda by anti-nuclear groups, at terawatt levels, electricity costs three times more for wind or solar than for nuclear. Solar and wind power requires expensive energy storage systems (batteries, etc) when there is no sunshine or wind. Also miles of access roads for maintenance are needed to keep blades or solar panels clean from bird droppings, dead birds, sand erosion, and storm damage, and to replace electrodes on storage batteries. Aficionados of renewables usually quote peak windmill or solar capacities, neglecting to multiply their numbers by a factor of four to account for a year-averaged availability of only 25% of peak wind or sunshine. Reactors run all year at 90% capacity. If the US limits itself to solar and wind energy, it is guaranteed to become impoverished and dependent on portable synfuels imported from other countries.

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