Nuclear Power Bill-Kentucky State

A Bill to Build Nuclear Power Facilities in Kentucky

A bill that would have the state of Kentucky build nuclear power facilities has been introduced on the floor of the senate house in Frankfort, Kentucky. The state and federal governments must jointly review the proposed legislation. The state of Kentucky will have complete jurisdiction and legislative ability to deal with nuclear energy if it is passed and becomes a law. On September 19, 2016, Kentucky senator Danny Carrol (R) introduced Senate Bill 11 to the house. On January 3, 2017, it was introduced to the Senate, where discussions and hearings concerning it started. The Committee Substitute was chosen to direct the bill's proceedings. After the third reading, it was received and signed by the president of the Senate. After this the speaker of the house signed it before handing it to the governor who approved it into a law under Governors Acts, ch. 118 (Legiscan 2017). When fully implemented, the bill will end a thirty three year old moratorium over the construction of nuclear facilities. This moratorium had been enacted in the year 1984 by the state of Kentucky and had prohibited any establishment of nuclear power plants in the state of Kentucky unless it could be approved by the federal government and had shown the capability to dispose the highly toxic nuclear wastes. Under the Senate Bill 11, every nuclear power plant must have a strategic plan for storing, disposing of the highly toxic nuclear wastes. The initiation of construction of the nuclear power plant will only commence when the state has shown a comprehensive plan for the management of the wastes and must be approved by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC 2017). According to an article (PR Newswire 2013), the commission had stated that it was not ready to approve or license small modular reactors. Thus, the state of Kentucky should ensure that they have thoroughly considered both financial and environmental consequences of having a nuclear facility within the state. Only when the feasibility of the bill is ascertained will the permission and certification processes take place.

Opposition and Support for the Bill

The establishment of a low-level nuclear waste disposal site would be banned under this bill and would only take place on approval by the Kentucky Governor and the General Assembly. The adoption of the nuclear power facility may take decades before it is approved under the jurisdictions of Senate Bill 11. However, Representatives of the bill Steven Rudy and R-Paducah assert that the implementation of the project will auger well for the future of the state of Kentucky regarding economy and energy. Rudy said that "The focus of our energy policy as a state must be a balanced portfolio to facilitate low-cost energy for our residents and existing businesses and industry." He further supported that the energy portfolio should focus on renewables, fossils, primarily on nuclear. Representative Kelly Flood, D-Lexington was amongst those who were opposing the bill. She reminded the House that the nuclear waste dump site at Maxey Flat, a town in northeastern Kentucky that transformed to become a disposal site for low-level radioactive wastes from numerous government agencies and corporations in the 60s and 70s. Later, this site was put on the list as a federal Superfund site in the late 80s, and this made it eligible for the federal government funds to enable decontamination activities. She says that was left to happen and the industry was lured into it. She further asserted that it is pivotal to recall histories to speak against the removal of the moratorium. Senate Bill 11 was passed by a majority vote of 65-28 at the House of Representative and the Governor signed it into law on 27 March 2017. The approval of the state Senate received a 27-8 vote on 1 March 2017.

Implications and Concerns

SB 11 overturned three decades of a law that had barred it from any engagements with nuclear power facilities. This law was passed and signed by Governor Matt Bevin on 27, March 2017. The bill was passed after a thorough debate at the House of Representatives and Kentucky's Senate, which oversaw many benefits to Kentucky State if the nuclear power plant was constructed. However, much as the majority of representatives both at the house of representative and the Senate were in support of the bill, those who opposed it saw that nuclear waste was both a health and environmental hazard. Those in support of the bill argued that the project would lead to an increase in energy supply to both Kentucky and other states. FitzGerald contended that the bill could result in the need for more developmental research and funds in the cleanup of the Paducah facility and that could take decades to finish (Bruggers 2017).

Transition from Coal to Nuclear Power

Before the SB 11 was tabled at the Senate house, the main source of energy in Kentucky had been coal energy. For many years, attempts to open up a nuclear energy had failed as the state had been economically and culturally dominated by coal. Moreover, Kentucky is the third-largest producer of coal and politicians had vowed to support the struggling industry into its feet. Before the bill was introduced into the house, many had thought that a nuclear power plant bill could take decades before it was approved into law due to lengthy and rigorous processes of permitting. However, it was not the case since most representatives welcomed and voted for the bill and was passed into law in a span of six months. Republican Jim Gooch Jn, the representative of Kentucky's western coalfields. He invoked against the bill basing his arguments on historical events of nuclear waste disposal (Schreiner 2017). After the bill was introduced to the Senate, local governments and businesses came in support of that since Kentucky was home to a plant that had been closed in 2013 and dealt with Uranium. Steve Rudy, another Republican Representative had doubted whether the bill was likely to be approved into law.

Nuclear Waste Management and Safety Measures

After the SB 11 was sent to the USNRC for evaluation and assessment, the amendment required that a plan be in place for how the nuclear waste was to be managed. Thus, nuclear waste management was the major concern in the entire readings and debates. Additionally, there were concerns over the financial spending that could be incurred in case the decontamination process was to be conducted. As introduced, SB 11 required approval from the USNRC as the bill had a proper plan over the disposal of low-level and mixed nuclear waste. Thus, the commission was to permit the certification of the facility. The bill sought permission from USNRC for the elimination of high-level nuclear waste regulation, requirements for disclosure of waste disposal costs, and requirements to have sound capacity for containment of the wastes. The commission was also to provide the Public Service Commission the authority to acquire consultants who were to perform nuclear facility certification duties and prohibition on the establishment of low-level nuclear waste sites for disposal in Kentucky.

Implications for Kentucky and Risks

The nuclear power plant in Kentucky is a milestone achievement in a state that has been majorly dependent on coal as its primary source of energy. The construction of the nuclear facility in Kentucky is an additional source of energy that has attracted different investors in the region. However, as leaders and legislators rushed to acquire certification of the nuclear power plant, they forgot the significances of the coal industry that has since continued going down. Moreover, as attention shifts from coal to nuclear, more coal mining jobs keep diminishing and at some point, the President of the United States had promised to replace the lost jobs in the coal mines. The construction of the nuclear power plant added to the total number of 61 nuclear power plants having 99 reactors in the 30 US member states. After the bill was passed into law, there are many implications for the state of Kentucky. For instance, there is a convenient supply of energy; the economy has grown as many investors continue injecting funds into projects in the state. Also, the level of employment has gone up, and citizens' socioeconomic status has improved. Much as the nuclear power plant has many positive implications for the state of Kentucky, it increases the risk of contamination due to nuclear radiations due to leakage or accidents. However, compliance with standard nuclear safety measures by the state of Kentucky can help in avoiding such risks.


Bruggers, James. 2017. “Kentucky on verge of lifting nuclear moratorium.” Courier Journal, March 8.

Legiscan. 2017. Kentucky Senate Bill 11 (Adjourned Sine Die) . March 27. Accessed April 26, 2017.

PR Newswire. 2013. “Golden Fleece Award” Goes To Department of Energy For Federal Spending On Small Modular Reactors.” The Free Library, February 27.…-a0320560244.

Schreiner, Bruce. 2017. “In Kentucky coal country, lawmakers open up to nuclear power.” News 1130, March 15.

USNRC. 2017. USNRC stands for United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. April.

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