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Planting nuclear power in the Red River Valley

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Duane Sand of North Dakota said Tuesday that America needs to commit to building 20 new nuclear power plants in the next 20 years, and one of them should be in the Red River Valley.

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Duane Sand of North Dakota said Tuesday that America needs to commit to building 20 new nuclear power plants in the next 20 years, and one of them should be in the Red River Valley.

Sand, 46, told the Herald's editorial board that the nation now has 104 nuclear power plants, which add up to less than 1 percent of all power plants but produce nearly one-quarter of domestic power.

The U.S. Navy Reserves commander who served on three nuclear submarines said many of those plants will reach the end of their 60-year maximum lifespan in the next two decades and will need to be decommissioned.

"So we're going to have to build more nuclear power, and with current federal rules and regulations against coal, it's going to have to be more nuclear power," he said.

Top goal

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The nuclear energy goal is item No. 1 on Sand's "Seven-Point American Energy Policy," a major part of his platform as he seeks the GOP Senate endorsement to campaign to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.

Sand will face competition for the endorsement from Rep. Rick Berg, which will be decided during the state convention in Bismarck this spring. Heidi Heitkamp and Tom Potter are seeking the Democratic-NPL endorsement for the Senate.

Among other things, Sand's energy plan calls for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil production and development and shifting the Environmental Protection Agency to a branch that would operate under the Department of Energy.

But he said America needs to embrace nuclear power more like other nations -- France gets more than 70 percent of its energy from nuclear plants, and China will soon get more than half of its power from nuclear energy.

"We're the only industrialized country in the world that isn't building nuclear power plants," he said.

Why here?

And there are several good reasons why one of his proposed 20 new nuclear plants should be in the Red River Valley, he said.

The region is among the most seismically stable in America, he said, a big consideration because it would be safer than existing plants near major fault lines in California and other areas of the country.

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Sand said a plant in eastern North Dakota also would be close to the Eastern Interconnection, one of North America's two major power grids that could easily move the energy produced at a new facility to Chicago and other large metro areas that need the power.

And putting a nuclear plant in the state would mean a $15 billion investment that would create 3,000 new jobs and generate more than $250 million each year in extra tax revenue, he said.

"It makes great economic sense for our state and it rounds out our résumé as an energy mecca of North America," he said. "People might say, 'Well, build them somewhere else.' Well, OK, we can do that, but why not build them here?"

Sand said several existing nuclear plants in the U.S. are cooled by man-made cooling lakes, which he said is one option that could be done safely and effectively along the Red River.

Sand will take his plans to North Dakota residents for a public input meeting tentatively set for Jan. 17 in Hillsboro.

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: RED RIVER VALLEY
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