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Wisconsin nuclear power plant license extension needs more environmental review, commission says

nuclear power plant along lake
The Point Beach Nuclear Power Plant is along Lake Michigan, near Two Rivers, WI.

The proposed license extensions for the two reactors at Wisconsin's only commercial nuclear power plant have hit a major snag.

Florida-based Next Era Energy owns the Point Beach plant north of Manitowoc. The plant sells power to WE Energies. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, has been reviewing Next Era's proposal for extensions of the reactor licenses that would keep the reactors operating for another 20 years beyond their current expiration dates of eight and 11 years from now. The plant is already operating on a license extension ok'd more than a decade ago. Point Beach would turn nearly 80 years old by 2050.

But as part of a legal case involving so-called subsequent, or second, license extensions at other nuclear plants, the NRC has issued a memo requiring the Point Beach proposal to go through a more extensive environmental impact statement than what's called a generic one, or GEIS.

Hannah Mortensen of the anti-nuclear group Physicians for Social Responsibility-Wisconsin says it's a big win. "We're going to have more recent data, which is wonderful. The GEIS was using old data, especially when it came to climate change, and alternative energy sources and renewables."

Some renewable energy advocates hope that more wind, solar and other forms of cleaner power can reduce the need for nuclear plants. There are also more breakthroughs in energy efficiency and conservation.

Next Era's media office did not respond to our request for comment. Mortensen says it's likely a final decision on the Point Beach license extensions will be pushed into 2023 or later.

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