Kentucky Senate Approves Building of Nuclear Power Plants

Published March 10, 2011

The Kentucky Senate has approved a bill to end a moratorium on nuclear power plants being built in the state. The bill, sponsored by Bob Leeper (I-Paducah), passed the Senate on February 8 by a 31-5 vote.

Kentucky state law currently prohibits nuclear power plants from being built in the state until the U.S. government opens a permanent storage facility for spent nuclear fuel.

Although support in the Senate was strong, the bill faces a more uncertain fate in the House, where similar bills have failed in recent sessions. Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has said he supports lifting the moratorium, which means the fate of nuclear power in the state resides in the House.

Leeper Touts Jobs
Leeper has substantial experience with the nuclear power industry, as his district is home to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which enriches and reprocesses uranium for use as nuclear fuel.

Leeper characterizes the legislation as a jobs bill. The construction of just a single nuclear power plant would generate thousands of permanent and temporary jobs in the state. However, Leeper argues, even if no nuclear plant is ever built in Kentucky, ending the moratorium would increase the state’s attractiveness to suppliers that contribute to the construction, maintenance, and operation of nuclear plants.

Nuclear Renaissance
The Kentucky debate is just one of many currently taking place in the 50 states. For example, both houses of the Minnesota legislature have approved a bill to end the state’s moratorium on new nuclear power plant construction. The bills are currently in conference committee before submission to Gov. Mark Dayton (D).

The nuclear industry is undergoing a worldwide renaissance, as new plant designs open up the possibility of safer, less expensive power plants. Sixty new nuclear plants are under construction, mostly in Asia. More than 20 new reactors have been proposed in the United States.

Jim Waters, vice president of policy and communications for the Bluegrass Institute, a Kentucky government watchdog group, said the time has come for the Kentucky House to help end the moratorium.

“While the Kentucky Senate has tried for a couple of years now to advance the nuclear power option, the House has dragged its feet,” Waters said. “Nuclear power can now be provided to the citizens of America in a safe and efficient way. We need this low-cost source of energy to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.