Kelly calls for special session to discuss Ameren bill

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | 2:33 p.m. CDT; updated 6:54 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 27, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY — With just a little more than two weeks left in Missouri's legislative session, Columbia's senior legislator has proposed that the governor call lawmakers back into a special session for more debate on the nuclear power plant issue.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said the bill to allow AmerenUE to raise rates for the costs of obtaining a federal nuclear plant permit was "dead" for the current legislative session, but the issue should continue to be examined.

"It (the bill) is not passing because of a failure to come together and compromise," Kelly said. "We should come back and do it and the governor should roll up his sleeves and get serious about the energy future."

Passage of the bill would let Ameren charge its ratepayers between $40 million and $45 million to cover the costs for seeking an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Under the various proposals before the legislature, the rate increases would not be imposed until the utility got the permit.

The measures also contain a "clawback" provision that requires AmerenUE to give back any money collected if the company decides to sell the site permit or discontinue construction.

Although the governor's press secretary said "there is still a lot of time left" in the session for issues to be discussed, Kelly said he does not know if the special session will be granted. Kelly said he wants the Ameren bill to be reexamined because the construction of a second nuclear plant is "vital to Missouri's long-time energy future" as well as the state's economic growth.

"The plant is important to Missouri because it provides a long-term, stable source of base electric power," Kelly said. "Every time you flip the switch, the lights have to go on, and we cannot achieve that with renewable sources yet, and nuclear is far superior to coal."

In the session for issues to be discussed, the governor's press secretary Scott Holste said, "There is still a lot of time left."

Some of Ameren's larger industrial consumers, such as Noranda Aluminum, which has a smelting plant located in southeastern Missouri, have criticized the bill for the additional costs Ameren could put on the companies to pay for the site permit. Kelly said he believes Ameren's disagreement with these industrial companies is one reason why the bill is hung up in the legislature, but that it was a "resolvable problem."

The House has not taken a vote on the proposal. In the Senate, two bills have been stalled in committee. Last week, an effort to attach the bill to another measure was ruled out-of-order by the Senate president pro tem, whose district includes the Noranda plant.

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Tom Kruzen April 28, 2011 | 8:42 a.m.

Chris Kelley needs to get on the real side of the energy issue. Currently, four reactors in Japan are melting down and hardly anyone has a final solution to that mess except to dump a billion tons of concrete on them like they did at Chernobyl...and sacrifice 100,000 workers lives doing it. If those reactors are not contained, the world could be in for a rough ride for the next 10,000 or billion years! CONSERVATION kills no one nor does it threaten the planet. The electricity it takes to produce one aluminum can will run a TV for 30 minutes. Recycle!
If we all get rid of those mercury and sodium vapor yard "insecurity" lights and replace them with motion sensored LEDs, we might be able to retire the one reactor at Callaway. EFFICIENCY and INNOVATION harm no one and are wise uses of our resources.

Nuclear powered electricity works only if your reactor is 93,000,000 miles from Earth. It conveniently eliminates the nuclear waste disposal problem too!

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall April 28, 2011 | 8:53 a.m.

@Tom, where do you get your 100,000 number? So far the nuclear accident in Japan has killed no one, and the situation is improving.

Nuclear has actually proven to be the safest form of energy we have. Coal kills an average of 30 people a year and has killed 100,000 over the past century (div of labor and statistics numbers). Oil has decimated environments all over the world.

You're right we all need to conserve more, but that's not going to take care of our energy needs and it's totally unrealistic to think it will. Until we are able to fully harness solar and wind and other renewable energies, nuclear is a very viable choice.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking April 28, 2011 | 9:00 a.m.

Actually, wind energy has killed about 50 people, mostly from falls during maintenance or construction. When you consider the relative energy contribution of wind to nuclear (which you have to, in ordder to compare apples to apples), nuclear has killed a lot fewer people per GWH than even Chernobyl.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 28, 2011 | 9:32 a.m.

Underground coal mining is inherently dangerous under the best of conditions due to the fact that coal dust and air under certain conditions make a marvelous explosive. There's also the problem of methane gas, as well as structural collapse, water issues, etc.

Strip mining coal, as is done largely in the West (Wyoming, for example), creates less safety problems.

You can find, on line, information concerning mining deaths and major mining disasters in the United States going back for more than a century. While many of the fatalities and major disasters involve coal mining, there have been major ones that do not.

Whether coal is strip mined or mined underground is mainly a matter of geology (how and where the deposit is situated) and economics (what it costs to get the coal out). These factors also figure in mining other minerals.

(Report Comment)
Tom Kruzen April 28, 2011 | 10:51 a.m.

Robin Nuttall, where do you get your info that Fukushima is improving? TEPCO?, the Japanese Government? Both of them
have an interest in minimizing the catastrophe. Many of those workers in Japan consider themselves sacrificed. Four workers were killed in a hydrogen explosion.

The Chernobyl Union of Ukraine, which supports survivors of the disaster, says 140,000 people who took part in the cleanup have died in the past quarter-century. The areas immediately around Chernobyl are uninhabitable for decades, maybe centuries.

Wind mills do not kill people en masse nor do they contaminate large areas of earth. Same with solar panels. Conservation harms no one.

The nuclear industry kills and poisons scores of people in its mining and processing. Ask the Hopi or Navajo who worked mining uranium or the people who process rods in Paducah or other nuclear processing plants. These facilities and nuclear power plants with their spent rods remain objects of terrorists' delight in a way that a wind turbine or solar panel does not.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 28, 2011 | 12:02 p.m.

Tom, I'm going to have to echo Robin's call for documentation of that 140,000 number as well...

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush April 28, 2011 | 12:43 p.m.

"When you consider the relative energy contribution of wind to nuclear (which you have to, in ordder to compare apples to apples), nuclear has killed a lot fewer people per GWH than even Chernobyl."
Deaths/GWH is one metric, but perhaps not the most germane. While I'm not so naive as to think risk should be zero, should we not have workers on power-lines either? Maybe we should stop growing food because farming is a dangerous, by some measurements the most dangerous, profession. Perhaps a better measurement of risk should include the consequences of failure. If a windmill fails, it simply falls. I'd love to see a more thorough computation of risk involving the whole fuel cycle. It doesn't seem sound to me to compare the risks of harvesting the fuel of one source with the risks of failure of another source.
But back to the question raised by the article, this "clawback provision" is a joke. After AMEREN gets all their money from hiking rates on payers, they could just as easily distribute some of their windfall to politicians and lobby themselves another bill eliminating the same provision. They'd be a net winner, and all of us are the net losers.
Just another example of massive wealth transfers from people to the real constituency of our elected representatives.
It's pitiful.

(Report Comment)

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