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State Senate Votes To End Moratorium On Nuclear Construction in Kentucky

Depleted uranium barrels housed at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant
Department of Energy
Depleted uranium barrels housed at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

The state Senate this week passed a bill that would lift a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah. His district is home to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which has been in the process of shutting down.

Carroll said lifting the moratorium would help bring jobs that have been lost at the plant.

“We have the site,” he said. “They’re ready.”

Carroll said the Paducah facility is ready for a new plant because it has spent nuclear fuel rods, which are commonly called “tails”

“So we have everything we need for that site there, and it would bring badly needed employment–good paying jobs for our region,” Carroll said.

More than 1,000 jobs are affected by the shutdown of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, but many workers have been involved in clean-up of the site.

Sen. Robin Webb voted against the bill, pointing out that for every nuclear project there will have to be a nuclear disposal site, like Eastern Kentucky’s Maxey Flat, which served as a dump for hundreds of companies and government agencies until the late 1970s.

“Make jokes about the cows and the water, but it’s real,” Webb said. “With nuclear, where are you gonna put the waste? I don’t want it in Maxey Flat.”

The bill would require any nuclear power plant to come up with a plan for storing nuclear waste. Efforts to establish a national nuclear disposal site in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain have stalled.

The bill has not been assigned to a House committee and its chance of passing the House this late in the session is not good, said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg

“The coal industry has traditionally opposed that,” Stumbo said on Wednesday. “The reality of it is, it just can’t happen.”

Stumbo said that the state should be open to diversifying its energy portfolio and look into nuclear power in the future.

Last summer, Gov. Steve Beshear indicated he would support a lift to the moratorium in order to diversify the state’s energy portfolio, WDRB reportred.

Tennessee willsoon have the first nuclear power plant to open in the U.S. since 1996.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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