Kentucky, other states taking lead to lift moratorium on nuclear plant construction

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By Jay Vincent,
Senior Vice President for Energy, The Saint Consulting Group

kentucky-plantIn 2008, there were 13 states that adopted regulations or enacted legislation supporting nuclear plant construction. Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin all considered legislation to repeal moratoria on new nuclear construction last year.

Several states are considering the possibility of allowing the addition of nuclear to their power portfolio. Nineteen states currently do not have nuclear power plants. Kentucky’s measure to repeal the moratorium is still in the hopper for consideration with a strong push by Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and the bill sponsor State Senator Robert Leeper, an Independent who caucuses with the majority Senate Republicans.

Leeper introduced SB 13, which would rescind a 1984 law that placed a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in the state. Hearings were recently held before the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and the bill was passed out of committee by a 7-1 vote. Leeper had introduced a similar bill last year that made it through the Senate, but died in the Democratic House. Leeper’s district includes Paducah, home of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It does not appear thought that one private nuclear interest or another is behind the legislation.

One of the lead speakers in support of the bill was Energy and Environment Secretary Len Peters. Peters, a former chemical engineer with Global Laboratory Operations for Battelle Memorial Institute, is well respected in Frankfort and seen as one of the Governor’s strongest cabinet members. His testimony along with the Governor’s positive mention in his State of the Union address may give the bill the impetus it needs to gain approval in this legislative session. If the bill stalls, the legislator to watch appears to be Representative Jim Gooch, a staunch coal advocate and Chair of the House Committee on National Resources and Environment. Kentucky’s Legislative session runs from January 6, 2009 to March 27, 2009.

What Leeper’s bill does not do is designate where any future nuclear sites may be located, leaving these decisions for later study to determine. Given the demand for power, “clean” energy popularity, price fluctuations, and stability of one energy source over another, the best approach for state elected officials these days may be to open the door for all including nuclear by lifting restrictions. Then, the battle between private developers and neighbors over specific sites will determine who’s providing how much. Perhaps this is not the best way to implement energy policy, but when you’re running for office and any one energy source has its legion of advocates and crtics, choosing one over the other right now can be more radioactive.

A link to the KY Energy Plan is below and copy of the Kentucky Senate Bill 13 and is attached.

Jay Vincent is senior vice president for energy, The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone 312.970.5770 Ext: 7502

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