Kentucky Senate committee approves measure seeking research on nuclear energy

The goal is to find funding and research institutions to do a feasibility study of advanced nuclear energy technology for electric power generation in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/LRC) – A few years ago, a moratorium on nuclear energy was lifted in Kentucky.

To further investigate the possibility of it coming to the commonwealth, Senate Concurrent Resolution 171 received approval Tuesday from the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee with an 8-0 vote.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Danny Carroll, of Benton, the legislation would request the Legislative Research Commission examine funding sources and research institutions capable of conducting a feasibility study of advanced nuclear energy technology for electric power generation in Kentucky.

Now is the time for further inquiry to take place, he said.

“We have always been able to provide low cost energy due to coal, and unfortunately as we move away from coal, we’re going to fall behind if we don’t look towards the future,” Carroll said. “We’ll be bringing folks in to educate the legislature during the interim on the next gen reactors and hopefully get some folks more comfortable with nuclear energy.”

Carroll said he and others have been in contact with the Idaho National Laboratory and have been looking for a funding source for the feasibility study for nuclear energy in the state.

“You all know years back we lifted the nuclear moratorium in Kentucky. However, since that time there really hasn’t been a lot of discussion on nuclear energy due to the lower cost of natural gas primarily and electricity in general,” he said.

Carroll noted that he serves on a National Conference of State Legislatures working group that is focused on nuclear energy, and the technology has advanced a great deal.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is working toward small modular reactors, with one in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Additionally, TerraPower in Wyoming is preparing to build a sodium reactor. It’s one of the next generation reactors that is much safer to use, Carroll said.

Legislators are also now considering solar energy legislation, but solar power alone would not be sufficient to meet the state’s needs, Carroll said.

If the legislation is signed into law, a committee or subcommittee at LRC would explore funding sources for a feasibility study and work to identify a consultant, university or similar group that could perform the study.

Republican Sen. Wil Schroder, of Wilder, thanked Carroll for his diligence regarding possible nuclear power in the state. With low energy costs and natural gas, there’s a tendency to be complacent instead of looking forward and trying to prevent things before problems arise, he said.

“I think energy really becomes an important issue for our security of our nation and the energy independence and just for our consumers and constituents keeping those costs down,” he said.

Democratic Sen. David Yates, of Louisville, said that educating people about nuclear power is important.

“But as we move to more electrical vehicles and we have to expand the grid here locally, these are things that we have to be considering, so I appreciate your leadership,” he said.

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