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Letters: Montana bill wrongly overturns right of voters to decide nuclear energy

I attended the Montana legislature’s hearing on House Bill 273, which would repeal nuclear reactor safeguards and voters’ rights guaranteed by Initiative-80. Initiative-80, which I campaigned for as a Missoula resident in 1978, was approved by 65% of Montana’s voters despite record spending by the nuclear industry.

The hotly-debated I-80 was endorsed by bipartisan Montana leaders, including former senators Mike Mansfield, John Melcher, and Max Baucus, Republican Senate nominee Larry Williams, Congressmember Pat Williams, and numerous legislators and newspapers.

Now, HB-273 proposes to overturn voters’ decision and abolish Montanans’ right to vote on nuclear facilities. HB-273’s backers claim today’s “new” nuclear reactors are safe and economical, yet HB-273 sneakily repeals Montana’s nuclear safety and liability standards and exposes taxpayers and property owners to large, long-term dangers and costs for nuclear accidents, radioactive waste, and reactor decommissioning.

If “new” reactors are safe, why are HB-273’s supporters scheming to abolish lawful safety standards? If nuclear power is economical, why are utilities pulling out of Utah’s 12-reactor NuScale project, plagued by massive delays and billions-dollar cost overruns?

Why the rush to repeal? Montana soon will undertake a comprehensive study of energy. Voters passed I-80; voters, not legislators, should decide whether to repeal it.

Mike Males, Oklahoma City