AmerenUE, looking to the future, knows that demand for electricity is going up. To meet that demand, Ameren must come up with more generating capacity. It already has a nuclear-powered plant in Calloway County near Fulton, Mo. Motorists driving along I-70 can see the plant's distinctive cooling tower on the horizon near the Missouri River to the south.
Now that Ameren has filed an application with federal authorities for a second nuclear facility. A big concern is how to pay for the plant, which would cost in the neighborhood of $9 billion. A state law says Ameren can't recover any of that construction cost until the plant is producing electricity. If forced to finance the project on its own until the plant is online, Ameren would likely incur additional lending costs of $1 billion -- which would ultimately be passed along to consumers.
Ameren want that law, approved by Missouri voters in 1976, repealed. Others want the law preserved to protect consumers. This faceoff is expected to consume a good deal of attention in Jefferson City during the current legislative session.
Nuclear power is a sensible way to produce the electricity Missouri needs without resorting to additional coal-fired or natural gas-burning plants. If, as some consumer advocates suggest, there are ways to meet the demand without scrubbing the 1976 law, legislators need to hear them.
Ameren's plan would have a far-reaching impact well beyond supplying electricity to energy-hungry customers. A project this size would create jobs, boost economic development and help stimulate the state's economy.
This may be a tough issue to reconcile, but appropriate deliberation and prudent action are needed.