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Senate Committee Lets Down Public, Votes Up Pro-Nuclear Resolution

Aaron Tilton scored a victory for himself and the promotion of nuclear power on Tuesday when the Senate Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted 4-2 in favor of sending S.J.R. 16 to the floor of the Senate. Despite a torrent of opposition from the community who attended the public hearing, Senators Knutsen, Killpack, Hinkins, and Urquhart all voted “to support new nuclear power development in Utah.”

HEAL supporters occupied nearly every chair and lined the walls of the committee room. Transition Power CEO and former legislator Aaron Tilton was introduced by resolution sponsor John Hinkins (R-Orangeville) and spoke for twenty minutes on the merits of nuclear power. He recited the usual industry fictions that nuclear power is cheap, that it is necessary to fill Utah’s energy “deficit”, and that it will bring healthy economic development to Green River.

Senators Goodfellow (D-West Valley), Van Tassell (R-Vernal), & Mayne (D-West Valley) all displayed a healthy skepticism to Tilton’s snake oil proposal and grilled him on the facts about his company’s general intentions for licensing the plant, where the nuclear waste would go, and what the true costs of the power will be.

Members of the public were then invited by committee chair Steve Urquhart (R-St. George) to deliver brief comments. And comment they did! Speaker after speaker raised their concerns that nuclear power will be too expensive, use too much of our scarce water, and will leave a toxic legacy in our state for generations. Only two members of the public spoke in favor of the resolution compared to 18 against.

However, the resolution passed by a 4-2 vote (Unfortunately Sen. Mayne had to present her own bill in a committee, and much to her dismay, missed the vote at the time it was called). Although it became abundantly clear that the majority of committee members stuck to their predetermined position, we scored a small victory when Sen. Van Tassel opposed this resolution. The barrage of public sentiment and a clear reading of the facts had influence on at least one fence-sitting Senator!

We will be making the same case to the rest of the Senate when this blatantly pro-nuclear resolution is debated on the Senate floor in the next week or so.

Again, SJR 016 is irresponsible because it:

• Grossly oversteps the authority of the Legislature in proclaiming nuclear energy competitive and low cost (It’s the market’s role to prove that, not the Legislature’s; and the market has demonstrated precisely the opposite).

• Erroneously declares the waste storage issue solved (We are no closer to a federally operational repository than we were a decade ago, and radioactive waste from a Green River plant will likely remain on site for generations).

• Suggests that nuclear waste isn’t a problem because 95% of the spent fuel could be re-used (In reality, not one country in the world re-uses more than 1% of their spent fuel. Furthermore, reprocessing is extremely expensive, creates more waste, and only exists through government subsidies )

• Falsely indicates that nuclear energy will benefit Utahns (nuclear energy produced in Utah will almost certainly be exported to neighboring states).

Please contact your state senator and urge him or her to vote against SJR 016 when its hits the senate floor. Also, please also take a moment to write a note thanking Senators Van Tassell, Goodfellow, and Mayne who took a stand against this junk resolution in the Public Utilities Committee.

Sen. Brent H. Goodfellow (D-West Valley): bgoodfellow@utahsenate.org
Sen. Karen Mayne: (D-West Valley): kmayne@utahsenate.org
Sen. Kevin T. Van Tassell (R-Vernal): kvantassell@utahsenate.org