Governor seeks more nuclear plants

PHOENIX -- Gov. Jan Brewer wants more nuclear plants in Arizona, and more uranium mining in the state to fuel them.

Speaking to a business group Tuesday, the governor said she is interested in developing more sources of solar energy. And the governor even created a special task force to look at tax and other incentives Arizona already gives to companies to determine which should be continued, expanded or discontinued.

Brewer also expressed interest in wind generated power, even saying she does not want any state regulations that would allow foes to block these "wind farms' based on visual pollution.

And she said Arizona needs to continue to rely on fossil fuels, especially coal, brushing aside concerns about particulate pollution.

But she said there has to be more.

"Let there be no doubt, let there be no mischaracterization: I'm a strong advocate for the development of more nuclear energy in Arizona,' she said, calling it "the best source of power generation that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.'

Brewer said it also has other advantages.

"Nuclear is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,' the governor said. "Nuclear production costs are stable and are not subject to extreme market fluctuations as are natural gas and oil.'

After her speech, Brewer said the operation of the Palo Verde Nuclear Power plant west of Phoenix shows that type of generation can be successful and safe.

And what of nuclear waste?

"Well, I think we've handled the waste in a fairly good, useable manner,' the governor responded. In fact, though, all the spent fuel rods remain on the site of the nuclear plant as there is no national facility either for storage or reprocessing.

"Well, it's being stored and it's safe and it's contained,' Brewer said. "And as we move forward into the future I'm sure there will be other methods of moving it.'

Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said Brewer's support of more nuclear power plants is based on the assumption the state needs more power. She said the best way to make more power available is to better use what we already have.

"We're a very inefficient state when it comes to our construction, buildings, houses,' Bahr said. "There's lots we can do relative to retrofits and also having strong codes for new construction.'

Bahr also said that, given the time it takes to get a plant permitted by the federal government, relying on this source makes no sense.

"It's just a huge distraction at a time when we should be focusing on the things that we have a lot of agreement on,' she said, like producing energy from more renewable sources. Bahr said Arizona has "a great opportunity to become leaders, to bring down the cost and to create jobs, all of those things that we need instead of fighting over something that is so controversial.'

Brewer said that new nuclear plants, by themselves, are only part of the solution. The governor said supports last year's decision by the state Department of Environmental Quality to issue "its controversial permit' for the "Arizona 1' uranium mine north of the Grand Canyon.

"And I strongly objected to a proposal by the United States Bureau of Land Management to withdraw uranium mining sites on federal lands,' she said.

The subject of the Grand Canyon came up separately as Brewer acknowledged that, even with a new nuclear plant being sought now, Arizona will continue to rely on coal to generate electricity.

She said there are "environmental consequences' from the burning of fossil fuels. And the governor said more needs to be done in researching "clean coal' technologies.

But the governor lashed out at proposed federal rules to require the use of "best available retrofit technology' to reduce particulate pollution from the Navajo Generating Station near Page. Those rules are based on arguments that emissions from the plant, the first unit of which went online in 1974, are reducing visibility at the Grand Canyon.

"Frankly, we don't need the federal government telling the Grand Canyon State how to protect the Grand Canyon,' she said.

Bahr scoffed at the idea that Arizona politicians would do what is right.

"If it were up to them, Grand Canyon would have hotels all along the rim, a tramway to the bottom, lord knows what else, and, yes, uranium mines,' she said.

Brewer said the federal rules would increase costs for customers of the utilities that own it, including Tucson Electric Power, Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project, as well as boost the costs of pumping water from the Colorado River into central Arizona and cost jobs and undermine revenues on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

"We cannot allow the federal government to make an orphan of common sense and our ability to make cost-benefit decisions based upon what is right and appropriate for Arizona and the future,' she said.


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