Wisconsin electric co-op explores new nuclear power plants

The Dairyland Power Cooperative in Wisconsin is exploring its options for building new nuclear power facilities. According to a press release issued last month, the co-op signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to evaluate the potential deployment of NuScale’s advanced nuclear technology.

NuScale is among several companies seeking to build nuclear power plants at scale by assembling smaller, modular reactors to form a larger power plant. It helps to think of the small reactors as a LEGO set that is connected together to form a power plant that is sized to suit the needs of the customer.

Dairyland’s pursuit of nuclear power is a good thing for their customers because it will allow them to provide reliable electricity to families and businesses who need it. NuScale’s technology is also well-suited for placement at retiring coal plant sites, which will help maintain vital jobs and tax revenues for these communities.

It is safe to say that Dairyland would not be exploring building a nuclear plant if Wisconsin had not lifted its moratorium on building new nuclear plants in 2016. Lifting the ban is the first step in a long journey of getting a plant built.

Opponents of lifting Minnesota’s ban on new nuclear plants sometimes argue that no companies are currently clamoring to build new nuclear power plants in the state, so we don’t need to legalize building new plants. But this argument is flimsy. Why would a company waste their time in Minnesota when they can look to launch projects in friendlier states, like Wisconsin?

Dairyland’s MOU with NuScale shows that state policies matter. While Wisconsin is forging ahead on smart energy policy, Minnesota languishes behind.

Instead of prematurely retiring Minnesota’s coal plants, utility companies like Xcel Energy and Minnesota Power should seek to keep these reliable, affordable power plants open as long as possible while looking for ways to eventually replace them with new nuclear power plants. NuScale’s technology could be a prime candidate for the job.