Senate unanimously advances nuclear energy development bill

February 27, 2024 | 12:09 am

Updated February 27, 2024 | 12:10 am

Sen. Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro | Photo by KY LRC

Legislation to create a new state agency on nuclear energy advanced unanimously off the Senate floor Monday. 

Sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, Senate Bill 198 would establish the Kentucky Nuclear Energy Development Authority to support and facilitate the development of a nuclear energy ecosystem across the state.  

A 30-member advisory board comprising government leaders, energy experts, and others would oversee the agency. It would be attached to the University of Kentucky Center for Applied Energy Research for administrative purposes. 

“This bill does not take steps to bring a nuclear reactor to the commonwealth today, tomorrow, next week, next month,” Carroll said. “But what it does is lay a strong foundation and gets the commonwealth prepared to be able to recruit nuclear reactors to the commonwealth and to create an every-bit-as-important nuclear ecosystem within the commonwealth that will bring other business and industry to our state.” 

The bill reflects work from a nuclear energy work group that brought together academics, utility and nuclear experts, and environmental advocates to study the issue in 2023.  

Once created, the authority would study workforce and educational needs to support the nuclear ecosystem in Kentucky. It would also oversee a site suitability study to identify potential locations for nuclear reactors and facilities.

Among many other provisions, the bill also calls for the Cabinet for Economic Development to create and implement a financial assistance program fund for nuclear energy-related projects.

Over the next few decades, nuclear energy will become the primary baseload source of energy in the world, Carroll said.

“I don’t want anyone to be misled or to think that this bill is in any way being critical of coal, natural gas, any of the renewables, any other source of energy that we utilize at this point. I believe that Kentucky needs to continue forward with an all-of-the-above approach,” Carroll said.

Sen. Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, voted for the measure and said it’s time for Kentucky to pursue nuclear energy.

“I’m for moving into this area of nuclear. I think it’s absolutely essential that we start moving this direction,” he said, adding he’s not voting on any specific dollar amount that would be used for its development.

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, said she voted for the measure because Kentucky needs to diversity its energy sources. As a former coal miner, she said she never thought she’d serve on a nuclear energy working group.

“We spent a lot of time, a lot of hours along with the different people, agencies, stakeholders to formulate this bill. And hopefully, we’ll continue to formulate an energy policy that I know is important … but also that Kentucky has been woefully inadequate with, as well as the federal government,” she said.

Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, voted for the bill and also said Kentucky needs to diversify. 

“Kentucky needs an all-of-the-above energy policy. We need coal. We need gas. We need solar. We need hydro. We need nuclear. And very quickly, there will be coming a time where we don’t have enough for our citizenry, and we don’t have enough for economic development,” he said. “And that may be now. As some economic development projects maybe even went to other states because we cannot guarantee them clean, affordable energy, and that’s already happening in my opinion.”

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

February 27, 2024 | 12:09 am

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