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Ky. governor signs bill lifting nuclear waste moratorium

Kentucky's governor has given the green light to legislation that could lead to the construction of new nuclear power plants in the state. Gov. Matt Bevin signed S.B. 11 on March 27, lifting Kentucky's moratorium on high level nuclear waste storage.

The Kentucky House of Representatives on March 15 voted 65-28 to approve the bill. It passed the state Senate March 1.

The legislation amends Kentucky's state statutes that require nuclear power plants to have permanent nuclear waste disposal. Under the legislation, national nuclear standards would be applied for nuclear waste storage, which requires the creation of a storage plan and approval of that plan by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. If the NRC approves a plan for waste storage, the Kentucky Public Service Commission would then be able to grant certification to the facility.

The bill also eliminates the requirement that the cost of waste disposal be reported and directs the state's energy and environment cabinet to conduct a review of nuclear facility permitting regulations.

Kentucky needs "diverse energy portfolios to remain economically competitive," according to Sen. Danny Carroll, the bill's sponsor. Carroll said that in order for that to happen, many new power plants will have to be nuclear.

In an interview with WKRC radio on March 14, Gov. Bevin said he believed the bill would open up energy options to Kentucky without dominating the state's coal industry.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce also supported the bill, stating it would "allow electricity providers to consider nuclear power when planning to meet future demand for electricity." It also listed the legislation as one of its top priorities for passage in the final days of the 2017 session.

There are no operating commercial nuclear plants in the state and utilities have not expressed interest in building one.