Bill supporting development of nuclear energy wins passage in Kentucky Senate

The Kentucky Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to lay the foundation to attract nuclear energy projects to a state where coal has dominated and fueled the economy for generations.

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll said Kentucky should embrace a cross-section of sources — including coal, natural gas and renewable energy — to meet its energy needs, but stressed that his legislation would prepare the Bluegrass State for what he sees as the inevitable surge of nuclear energy.

“I believe that Kentucky needs to continue forward with an all-of-the-above approach,” he said. “However, I also firmly believe that nuclear is the future of this commonwealth. And it’s imperative that this commonwealth stay in the forefront and not get left behind.”

His measure passed the Senate on a 34-0 vote, with coalfield senators joining in support. The bill heads to the House next. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers. By the same tally, the Senate adopted a related resolution directing the state Public Service Commission to prepare for nuclear energy.

To develop that foundation, Senate Bill 198 would establish the Kentucky Nuclear Energy Development Authority. It would be attached to the University of Kentucky’s Center for Applied Energy Research and would be governed by an advisory board with members representing various stakeholder groups.

The authority would be a nonregulatory agency on issues related to nuclear energy and its development in Kentucky. It also would support development of a “nuclear energy ecosystem” meant to enhance the economy, protect the environment, support community voices and prepare the future workforce.

The bill would set in motion a site suitability study to identify the best potential locations for nuclear reactors and related facilities. The authority would set criteria for voluntary designations as a “nuclear-ready community.” Such a designation would signal to the nuclear industry that “these communities are open to nuclear – whether it be a reactor, whether it be related industry,” Carroll said.

The accompanying resolution would require the Public Service Commission to review “every aspect of what they do to make sure that when that first licensure request comes, that they’re not scrambling for six months to a year trying to figure out how to handle that particular situation,” Carroll said.

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