[ RadSafe ] Kentucky Senate Passes Bill to Allow Nuclear Plants

Perle, Sandy SPerle at mirion.com
Fri Jan 22 16:01:32 CST 2010

Ky. Senate Passes Bill to Allow Nuclear Plants
Ky. Senate passes bill to allow building of nuclear power plants; fate uncertain in House
By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press Writer
FRANKFORT, Ky. January 21, 2010 (AP)
The Associated Press

Legislation to lift Kentucky's ban on the construction of nuclear power plants steamed through the Senate on Wednesday but could get unplugged in the House.

The bill, which cleared the Senate on a 27-10 vote, is backed by Gov. Steve Beshear but House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he doesn't think the measure will pass the House.

State law currently prohibits a nuclear power plant from being built in Kentucky until there is a permanent storage facility to contain the nuclear waste. A proposed high-level radioactive waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been discussed for years.

Independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah said Wednesday his bill would put Kentucky on "equal footing" with other states if the federal government ever approves new nuclear plants.

"We must recognize the value of nuclear power and the importance of allowing nuclear power to be a part of the energy mix in our state," Leeper said.

Leeper's district in western Kentucky is home to a uranium enrichment plant.

Democratic Sen. Ray Jones of Pikeville, who opposed the bill, called it "ill timed" and said it "turns a blind eye to the reality" that Kentucky relies heavily on coal for its electricity. Kentucky is among the nation's top coal producers, and Jones represents a coal-producing region in eastern Kentucky.

Jones said the measure "will basically do nothing to change the direction of Kentucky's energy policy" because the federal government hasn't approved any new nuclear plants. Jones also raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power.

Leeper countered that he has been an ally of coal as a legislator, and said that nuclear reactors currently operating in the U.S. are doing so safely.

"It has a very, very admirable record in the United States," he said.

Leeper also said his constituents recognize the many regulatory hurdles that would have to be cleared before any nuclear plants could be built in Kentucky.

Kentucky has not allowed nuclear power plants since 1984, after the General Assembly passed a law barring their construction until a permanent waste storage facility was in place.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said the bill reflects "a broader vision" for the country's energy needs. He said the measure would make Kentucky "well situated to continue to be an energy-producing giant."

Kentucky has its own history with nuclear waste.

An ill-fated nuclear dump site in Fleming County that opened in the 1960s, Maxey Flats, stored low-level radioactive waste when it was operational. The facility was an attempt to attract the nuclear industry to Kentucky, but it closed in the 1970s because water - contaminated by radiation - was found migrating beyond the site's borders.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, cited Maxey Flats in voting against the bill. She said workers there were unknowingly exposed "to things ... that they should not have been exposed to."

Sander C. Perle
Mirion Technologies
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