James Bruggers , @jbruggers 10:23 a.m. ET March 8, 2017
Nuclear critic says no nuclear power plants will likely come to Kentucky any time soon because of their costs
A bill that would overturn a three-decade-old law that effectively bars construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky is on the verge of passing the General Assembly and being sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.
Senate Bill 11 would get rid of a mandate that any nuclear power plants have access to a permanent disposal facility for their radioactive wastes, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. They’d only have to have a plan to manage those wastes.
Already successfully through the Senate, Sen. Danny Carroll‘s bill passed a House committee on Tuesday and was sent to the House floor for a vote, where one of its long-time critics, Kentucky Resources Council director Tom FitzGerald, said he expects it will pass.
“We’ve had 15 years of arguing over this,” FitzGerald said Wednesday, observing that his organization withdrew its opposition this year as new wording was added to make sure all costs of nuclear energy would be weighed before allowing any plants to be constructed in Kentucky.
He said there was little chance of a nuclear plant being built in Kentucky anytime soon because they cannot compete economically with other forms of energy such as natural gas, scrubbed coal or renewables.
Still, Carroll, a Paducah Republican, whose district includes a former nuclear fuel factory in Paducah, said Kentucky needs to be ready to diversify its energy portfolio.
In a news release, he said that U.S. energy demand is expected to increase. “That means the United States will need many new power plants of all types to meet the increased demand and replace older facilities that are retired. To ensure a diverse portfolio, many of these new power plants will have to be nuclear,” he said.
FitzGerarld said it’s more likely that the bill might allow the Paducah facility — which will be in a cleanup mode for many decades — to attract some additional research and development money to Kentucky.
Despite spending billions of dollars over two decades, the U.S. government failed to open a permanent disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste at its Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.
Reach reporter James Bruggers at 502-582-4645 or at [email protected].
Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 3-0)
Status: Engrossed on March 2 2017 – 50% progression
Action: 2017-03-07 – reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar
Text: Latest bill text (Draft #2) [PDF]
Amend KRS 278.600 to require that nuclear power facilities have a plan for the storage of nuclear waste rather than a means of permanent disposal and to add definitions of “storage,” “low-level nuclear waste,” and “mixed nuclear waste”; amend KRS 278.610 to allow certification if the facility and its plans for waste storage are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; eliminate the requirement that the facility have a plan for disposal of high-level nuclear waste; eliminate the requirement that cost of waste disposal be known; eliminate the requirement that the facility have adequate capacity to contain waste; give the Public Service Commission authority to hire a consultant to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification; prohibit construction of low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky except as provided in KRS 211.852; direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to review regulations required for permitting nuclear facilities and report to LRC; repeal KRS 278.605, relating to construction of nuclear power facilities.