Washington Legislators Propose Task Force on Nuclear Power

Published March 1, 2008

Washington state Sen. Jerome Delvin (R-Richland) and state Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City) have proposed legislation that would create a task force of experts to study the merits of nuclear power.

The legislation, which would require an examination of advanced nuclear technologies, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, nuclear power costs, and various safety issues, is receiving surprising bipartisan support. It has the approval of some of the legislature’s more prominent environmentalists.

Senate Bill 6568 and its companion legislation, House Bill 2737, were submitted on January 16 and January 18, respectively.

Baseload Generation Needed

“I’m just trying to have a discussion about nuclear energy without the hysterics of the anti-nukes,” Delvin told the Olympian for a January 23 article. “We’re going to need baseload generation. Why shouldn’t nuclear power be a part of that?”

Baseload generation is power that is always available, as opposed to peaking plant power that is needed to handle surges in demand.

“The reality is we’re going to need more baseload power here in the Northwest, and at some point as a region we’re going to have to decide where we want that power to come from,” Brad Peck, spokesperson for power company Energy Northwest, told Yakima television station KNDO. “Is it hydro? There aren’t really any more hydro sites to build.”

Bipartisan Support

Delvin has lined up nine other senators–three Republicans and six Democrats–to cosponsor the legislation in the Senate. Anderson has lined up four other representatives–two Republicans and two Democrats–to cosponsor the legislation in the House.

Two of the cosponsors were described as “environmental champions” by the Olympian on January 23.

Sen. Craig Pridemore (D-Vancouver) was named “legislator of the year” in 2006 by Washington Conservation Voters, and the organization gave Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia) a 100 percent voting record through 2006, according to the Olympian.

Nuclear Gaining Support

Nuclear power is gaining support in other Western states as well.

Idaho Gov. Butch Davis (R) has been stumping around his state in support of nuclear power. In California, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine) spent much of the past year gathering signatures to place a nuclear power ballot initiative before voters this coming June.

“Support is growing for nuclear power from all interests and all political persuasions,” said Tom Tanton, vice president of the Institute for Energy Research.

“While specific reasons are as varied as the groups from which the support comes,” Tanton said, “the ability to provide low prices for reliable baseload and low carbon emissions is at the core. There is no other option available now or in the near future that can provide the ‘trifecta’ for electricity: abundance, low cost, and without carbon emissions. No wonder support is growing.”

“Nuclear power is still a difficult issue for some, but there is growing recognition that it needs to be part of the solution,” added Todd Myers, director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center.

“The most significant step,” Myers noted, “is that previously the environmental community would openly attack nuclear. Today, while many are still reluctant to advocate it, they don’t attack it anymore.”

E.J. Donovan ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Tampa, Florida.