Senate panel signs off on lifting nuclear power plant moratorium

The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee approved a bill that would lift a 25-year moratorium in Kentucky on nuclear energy production. 

Senate Bill 13 sponsored by Sen. Bob Leeper, an Independent from Paducah, would lift a requirement that there be a means of long-term nuclear waste storage before any nuclear power plant can be built in the state. 

Under the bill, companies proposing to build a nuclear power plant would now only have to provide a plan for storage rather than requiring that a long-term storage facility for the waste be operational. Currently there are no long-term storage facilities in the country for nuclear waste. 

Leeper told the committee that lifting the moratorium would open up the discussion about bringing nuclear energy to the state in the future. Currently 40 states have no moratorium on nuclear power facility construction. 

It has been determined that waste can be stored on-site for up to 100 years safely, which would allow time for the development of long-term solutions, Leeper said. 

The lengthy licensing and construction process of nuclear plant also allows time for plans and solutions to be developed, Leeper said. 

“There’s a long time before the actual removal of this materal to a permanent storage site will occur,” Leeper told the committee. “My effort is to put us on the drawing board.” 

Tom FitzGerald with the Kentucky Resources Council told the committee that there are still too many issues outstanding with nuclear energy, of which nuclear waste storage is one, for the state to lift the moratorium at this time. 

The discussion about allowing nuclear energy generation in Kentucky can continue without changing the current statute, FitzGerald said. 

“I would suggest that changing the statetue is the end of the that discussion and not the beginning of it,” FitzGerald said. 

The bill will head to the full Senate after passing the committee by a vote of 7 to 2, with Sens. Ray Jones and Johnny Ray Turner voting against it.

Update, 10:30 p.m. ….

Gov. Steve Beshear made specific mention of nuclear power in his State of the Commonwealth address tonight. 

Here are his comments – 

It is also time to revisit the issue of nuclear power in Kentucky. 

Kentucky must – in a bipartisan fashion – discuss and decide how aggressively to move forward on an energy source that already accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s baseload electricity generation. Safety, of course, must be the top priority. 

Senate Bill 13, Sen. Leeper’s proposal, provides us a vehicle for starting that dialogue.

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