Kentucky is on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable: opening the door to nuclear power.

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, fog hovers over a mountaintop as a cutout depicting a coal miner stands at a memorial to local miners killed on the job in Cumberland, Ky. The Republican-controlled Kentucky state legislature is on the cusp of lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy, a move unthinkable just three years ago in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. As the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives.

Above: FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo, fog hovers over a mountaintop as a cutout depicting a coal miner stands at a memorial to local miners killed on the job in Cumberland, Ky. The Republican-controlled Kentucky state legislature is on the cusp of lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy, a move unthinkable just three years ago in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. As the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives. David Goldman, File AP Photo

By ADAM BEAM Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky.

Donald Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, but even the country’s third-largest coal producer appears to be hedging its bets on a comeback. Kentucky is on the cusp of doing what was once unthinkable: opening the door to nuclear power.

The Republican-controlled state legislature is close to lifting its decades-long moratorium on nuclear energy in a state that has been culturally and economically dominated by coal. Politicians from both parties have promised for years to revive the struggling coal industry, with Trump famously billing himself as “the last shot for miners.” But as the coal industry continues its slide, even Republican lawmakers are acknowledging a need for alternatives.

“There are other factors other than the administration in the White House that controls this. There are banks that are reluctant at this point to give loans for coal-fired furnaces,” said Republican state Sen. Danny Carroll, who sponsored the bill. “You look at the jobs that were lost, you look at the production of coal and how that has declined, we’ve got to learn lessons from that and we’ve got to have a third option.”

Kentucky’s coal industry has been steadily declining for decades. Coal mining employment has fallen from 31,000 in 1990 to just over 6,300. Just three years ago, coal-fired power plants provided 93 percent of the state’s electricity. Today, that has fallen to 83 percent, according to the Kentucky Coal Association, as older plants are being shut down and replaced by natural gas.

Kentucky is one of 15 states that restrict the construction of new nuclear power facilities according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin lifted its ban last year. Nationwide, there are 61 nuclear power plants with 99 nuclear reactors in 30 states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The bill has passed the state Senate and could get a vote in the House of Representatives on Tuesday

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin told Cincinnati radio station WKRC he would not veto the bill if it makes it to his desk.

“I don’t see it as a threat to that existing energy infrastructure. I see it as just increasing the opportunities of things we might be able to do in Kentucky,” he said.

The bill has been pushed by local government and business leaders in the western part of the state, which was home to one of the few uranium enrichment plants in the country before it closed in 2013. That left the area teeming with a skilled workforce with no hope of employment in their field.

“Without that moratorium lifted, we absolutely have no opportunity,” said Bob Leeper, the judge executive for McCracken County and a former state senator who has pushed to lift the moratorium for years.

But Kentucky has been burned by the nuclear industry in the past. In the 1960s, seeking to lure the emerging nuclear energy industry into the state, Kentucky set up a place to store toxic waste. From 1963 to 1977, more than 800 corporations dumped 4.7 million cubic feet of radioactive waste at the site, but no nuclear reactor was ever built. The Maxey Flats site is closed, but its contaminated soil, surface water and groundwater resulted in an expensive state and federal cleanup.

“This is the Faustian bargain we engage in. We get cheap energy, but we saddle future generations with millennia responsibility of being mature enough to properly manage waste we are generating,” said Tom Fitzgerald, executive director of the Kentucky Resources Council, which has opposed lifting the moratorium.

Even if the ban is lifted, a nuclear power plant could still take more than 10 years to develop given the rigorous permitting process. And construction would be expensive, which would threaten to drive up electricity rates to pay for it. That is of particular concern to the state’s manufacturing sector, which uses large amounts of electricity in their production processes.

The bill requires state officials to review the state’s permitting process to ensure costs and “environmental consequences” are taken into account. That was enough for Fitzgerald to be “neutral” on the bill.

The Kentucky Coal Association is also neutral, although president Tyler White said they were not happy with the bill.

“We think there are more realistic policies that we should be pursuing in Frankfort than nuclear,” he said.

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Kentucky on verge of lifting nuclear moratorium

Image result for kentucky nuclear waste site

James Bruggers , @jbruggers 10:23 a.m. ET March 8, 2017

Nuclear critic says no nuclear power plants will likely come to Kentucky any time soon because of their costs

A bill that would overturn a three-decade-old law that effectively bars construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky is on the verge of passing the General Assembly and being sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Senate Bill 11 would get rid of a mandate that any nuclear power plants have access to a permanent disposal facility for their radioactive wastes, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. They’d only have to have a plan to manage those wastes.

Already successfully through the Senate, Sen. Danny Carroll‘s bill passed a House committee on Tuesday and was sent to the House floor for a vote, where one of its long-time critics, Kentucky Resources Council director Tom FitzGerald, said he expects it will pass.

“We’ve had 15 years of arguing over this,” FitzGerald said Wednesday, observing that his organization withdrew its opposition this year as new wording was added to make sure all costs of nuclear energy would be weighed before allowing any plants to be constructed in Kentucky.

He said there was little chance of a nuclear plant being built in Kentucky anytime soon because they cannot compete economically with other forms of energy such as natural gas, scrubbed coal or renewables.

►MORE:  Bevin, 18 states, call for EPA to back off

Still, Carroll, a Paducah Republican, whose district includes a former nuclear fuel factory in Paducah, said Kentucky needs to be ready to diversify its energy portfolio.

In a news release, he said that U.S. energy demand is expected to increase. “That means the United States will need many new power plants of all types to meet the increased demand and replace older facilities that are retired. To ensure a diverse portfolio, many of these new power plants will have to be nuclear,” he said.

FitzGerarld said it’s more likely that the bill might allow the Paducah facility — which will be in a cleanup mode for many decades — to attract some additional research and development money to Kentucky.

Despite spending billions of dollars over two decades, the U.S. government failed to open a permanent disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste at its Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

Reach reporter James Bruggers at 502-582-4645 or at jbruggers@courier-journal.com.

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Status

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 3-0)
Status: Engrossed on March 2 2017 – 50% progression
Action: 2017-03-07 – reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar
Text: Latest bill text (Draft #2) [PDF]

Summary

Amend KRS 278.600 to require that nuclear power facilities have a plan for the storage of nuclear waste rather than a means of permanent disposal and to add definitions of “storage,” “low-level nuclear waste,” and “mixed nuclear waste”; amend KRS 278.610 to allow certification if the facility and its plans for waste storage are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; eliminate the requirement that the facility have a plan for disposal of high-level nuclear waste; eliminate the requirement that cost of waste disposal be known; eliminate the requirement that the facility have adequate capacity to contain waste; give the Public Service Commission authority to hire a consultant to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification; prohibit construction of low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky except as provided in KRS 211.852; direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to review regulations required for permitting nuclear facilities and report to LRC; repeal KRS 278.605, relating to construction of nuclear power facilities.

CONTINUE TO SB11 …

Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin review of site for TVA nuclear plant in Oak Ridge

January 12th, 2017 by Dave Flessner

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced today that it has accepted for review the early site permit application from the Tennessee Valley Authority to build small modular reactors on the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor scrapped by the federal government nearly four decades ago. TVA submitted the application and associated information in May 2016, and provided follow-up information through the remainder of the year.

TVA, which last year completed the Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor and sold its unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, has no immediate plans to build more nuclear plants. But the utility is working with the U.S. Department of Energy to test the new smaller reactors and the preferred site is on the Clinch River.

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

“Accepting the application for review, or “docketing” the application, does not indicate whether the Commission will approve or reject the request,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said.

The move will allow opponents to the proposed new small modular reactors to intervene and request a hearing.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a Knoxville-based environmental group opposed to building more nuclear plants, said today it will fight attempts by TVA to pursue the new nuclear plant design in Oak Ridge.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s high risk energy choices program director, Sara Barczak, issued this statement in response to today’s announcement:

“Once again the Department of Energy is repeating past mistakes by pushing a highly speculative nuclear power technology that doesn’t exist in the real world,” said Sara Barczak, a program director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This is the same site where breeder reactors were once proposed and ultimately failed, after squandering lots of money. Given there are no certified reactor designs, nor has a thorough review by the NRC of any designs here in the U.S. even been conducted, small modular reactors should be more accurately described as ‘mystery’ modular reactors as there is no rational or economic reason to pursue them.”

Small modular reactors are designed to produce less than 300 megawatts of electricity — only one fourth the size of TVA’s biggest reactors — and are intended to be built in factories with modular designs and installed in small, often underground sites, which proponents believe will be safer and more secure.

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Nuclear power bill approved by Kentucky Senate

For Immediate Release

March 1, 2016

Nuclear power bill approved by Senate

FRANKFORT—A bill that would lift a long-standing moratorium on nuclear power plants in the state, was approved today by the Kentucky Senate.

Senate Bill 89 would amend Kentucky Revised Statutes to change the requirement that facilities have means of permanent disposal of nuclear waste. Instead they would only be required to have a plan for its safe storage, and that the plans be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

It would also eliminate several other obstacles to the construction and maintenance of nuclear facilities.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah.

“Lifting the nuclear moratorium in Kentucky is no longer a regional issue. It is, without question, a statewide issue,” said Carroll, the latest to introduce the bill – it has passed a Senate vote several times in recent years.

With 99 reactors running in 30 states and a handful being built, Carroll said Kentucky is surrounded by states taking advantage of advances in nuclear energy.

“It has never been more important that we start looking to diversify the energy portfolio in our state,” Carroll said.

“When you run a business, you look for varied funding streams. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket… That’s what we’re doing in our state. Out of fear of nuclear energy, out of efforts to protect the coal industry, whatever the case may be, we are putting all our eggs in one basket.”

“We will left behind if we don’t take action. Soon,” he added.

Other changes proposed with the bill include giving the Public Service Commission authority to hire consultants to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification.

The bill, in earlier iterations, has received significant attention in the western part of the state where many were out of work when the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant closed in 2013. The facility produced enriched uranium for the U.S. Department of Energy for 50 years before closing.

SB 89 now heads to the House for consideration.

–END–

For immediate release: 05/24/12

 

 

For immediate release: 05/24/12
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