The Minnesota Senate voted Wednesday to lift the state's ban on new nuclear power plants.
Senators voted 50 to 14 in favor of a bill lifting the ban. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, led the effort. One of the state's existing nuclear plants, in Monticello, is in her district.
She said nuclear energy is part of the larger Republican agenda now that they control the Legislature.
"We did hear about taxes, we did hear about permitting and regulation," she said. "But the third piece ... is that industry and business in Minnesota, they have a real going concern and a need for reliable energy and affordable energy."
DFLers said other states are finding nuclear plants to be too expensive to build. They also said the ban was originally put in place in 1994 to address the growing stockpile of nuclear waste, which still hasn't been addressed by the federal government.
The House has yet to vote on its version of the bill. Labor unions and business leaders support repealing the moratorium, but Gov. Mark Dayton has raised concerns about it.
He said the Senate bill doesn't meet the conditions that would make lifting the ban acceptable to him -- although he mistakenly said there were three existing nuclear plants in Minnesota.
"My three requirements would be there is no effect on ratepayers for the planning and preparation process, there would be no net increase in nuclear waste beyond the operations of the existing three plants, and that there be no weapons grade or near weapons grade plutonium generated from any nuclear reactor site," Dayton said.
DFL Senators offered amendments on all three of those points on the Senate floor. All failed by nearly 2-to-1 margins.
Lawmakers say even if the ban is lifted, it could be more than a decade before a new nuclear plant would be built in the state.