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States Move to Start or Enhance Nuclear Presence

April 10, 2014—With many states wrapping up their legislative sessions, three have passed bills to expand the use of nuclear energy in their regions. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a 2014 budget revision that includes funds for a task force to study the costs and environmental benefits of additional nuclear energy in Washington state, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill that encourages the development of a new reactor at Dominion’s North Anna nuclear energy facility, and the New Mexico House passed a resolution to assess small reactors.

VIRGINIA

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill (SB459) that will allow the state’s utilities to add 70 percent of nuclear and offshore wind-related preconstruction costs over the past six years to their expenses for 2013 and 2014.

Essentially an accounting change, it allows Dominion Generation, which has been considering building a third reactor at its North Anna facility, to charge about $300 million in research and development costs on the project against its profits over the two fiscal years.

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Walter Stosch, (R) said the measure would encourage further development of energy generation other than coal and natural gas, telling the Hampton Roads (Va.) Daily Press, "If we want to assure sustainable energy, then we need to encourage people to build these plants."

WASHINGTON

The state’s supplemental budget bill (SB-6002) creates an eight-member Senate-House joint task force charged with studying nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil-generated electricity, and issuing a report by Dec. 1 to “consider the greatest amount of environmental benefit for each dollar spent based on the life-cycle cost of any nuclear power technology.” The life-cycle costs “must include the storage and disposal of any nuclear wastes.”

The task force can hold up to four public meetings, two of which must be in Richland, near both the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site and the Columbia Generating Station, Washington’s only commercial nuclear facility.

NEW MEXICO

The New Mexico House passed a resolution calling for the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources  Department to assess the feasibility of having small reactors in the state. Due in December, if the assessment is favorable the legislature will consider including small reactors in the state energy plan.

The resolution also requests the department to examine the legal and regulatory requirements for building and operating a small reactor in New Mexico and include “a strategy to attract investment by the nuclear industry supply chain.”

In an economic impact statement accompanying the resolution, the House said small reactors “offer the advantages of lower initial capital investment, scalability, and siting flexibility at locations unable to accommodate traditional, larger reactors.” While New Mexico has no commercial nuclear facilities, it hosts the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a repository for defense-origin plutonium-bearing low-level radioactive waste.