The Costs and Benefits of Closing Prairie Island

Date: 1 Nov 1993 | posted in: Energy | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

On June 8, 1993, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the Minnesota legislature has the authority to authorize an Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) at Prairie Island. The Court reasoned that since the facility might well become permanent the legislature has sole jurisdiction to make such an historic decision.

It is important to note that NSP requested authorization to store up to 48 dry casks at the independent storage facility. This would have given it sufficient space to store the spent fuel from the reactors until the year 2014, the end of the reactors’ current operating license. The PUC, on August 10, 1992, overruled the Administrative Law Judge and gave NSP permission to build an ISFSI but only to store 17 dry casks, enough to last until the year 2001.  In its order, the PUC concluded that after the year 2001 “it is unclear what the most prudent, cost-effective option will be”.

It is unfortunate that the legislature is being forced to make an up or down decision at the last minute. For the process concerning Prairie Island began four years ago. In December 1989 NSP initiated its Environmental Impact Statement process for the independent waste storage facility. In April 1991 NSP filed an application for a Certificate of Need for the of the feasibility and cost of different strategies for replacing Prairie Island generation, should the need arise.”  Since 1989, when NSP developed its first environmental impact statement on the dry cask storage facility neither the utility nor the Minnesota Department of Public Service have seriously examined the alternatives to Prairie Island.

On July 30, 1993, one year after the PUC order, NSP submitted its next resource plan. The plan is more than 400 pages long. Only seven paragraphs are devoted to addressing alternatives to Prairie Island.

In our report, The Costs and Benefits of Closing Prairie Island (by David Morris and John Bailey, November 1993), ILSR’s conclusion is that abundant power is available to replace Prairie Island both in the short and the long run. The cost of doing so would be about equal to an average year’s rate increase. Minnesota would also create a thriving renewable energy industry in the state and ramp up installation of energy efficient technologies.

Download the report:  The Costs and Benefits of Closing Prairie Island

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David Morris

David Morris is co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and currently ILSR's distinguished fellow. His five non-fiction books range from an analysis of Chilean development to the future of electric power to the transformation of cities and neighborhoods.  For 14 years he was a regular columnist for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. His essays on public policy have appeared in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, Washington PostSalonAlternetCommon Dreams, and the Huffington Post.

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John Bailey

John Bailey is ILSR's Development Director.  He was also a senior researcher at ILSR from 1992 until 2011, specializing in decentralized energy policy and analysis.

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