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Economy & Business

Groups Concerned About Nuclear Power Want Questions Asked About Point Beach Plan

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Point Beach Nuclear Plant located near Two Rivers, WI.

Citizen groups are urging a federal agency to ask many questions about a proposal to extend the life of Wisconsin's only remaining nuclear power plant.

The two reactors at the Point Beach plant along Lake Michigan, north of Manitowoc, are licensed to run about another decade. But the plant owner, Next Era Energy, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to extend the licenses until about 2050. Milwaukee-based WE Energies used to own Point Beach, and still buys power from it.

Wednesday, the NRC held an online meeting for people to say what they think should be in the agency's draft environmental impact statement (EIS) as part of the application review.

Kelly Lundeen, of the group Nukewatch, wants consideration that if Next Era operates Point Beach for three more decades instead of one, the plant will produce a lot more nuclear waste.

"If the company wants to continue to create tons of high-level radioactive waste, they're asking for enormous trust on the part of the public. They're also assuming the consent of future generations to create this waste,” said Lundeen.

Point Beach and many other U.S. nuclear power plants now store some waste in concrete and steel containers outside the plant that the industry says are very safe.

Hannah Mortensen, of Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin, is asking the NRC to consider whether the state will need the energy from what is now a 50-year-old power plant.

"When Point Beach was built, alternative energy, such as renewable energy — wind, solar, was not as common, was not as economical. Therefore, I think the EIS needs to take a hard look, a hard look, at the alternate option of different energy sources, in comparison to the proposed action of extending the life of the reactors,” said Mortensen.

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An NRC slide shows the projected timeline for review of the Point Beach license proposal.

Other speakers contended at least one of the Point Beach reactors is getting brittle. But plant vice president Michael Strope said the facility is in good shape.

"We're constantly upgrading our equipment to make sure it's running safely, and efficiently. We've made almost $800 million in investments to the plant over the last few years and our investments demonstrate our readiness to meet all the operational requirements today, and well into the future,” said Strope.

The NRC is considering whether to extend the March 3 deadline for public comment on the scope of the environmental review. The review itself won't be completed until October.

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