State Rep. Gerald Watkins on His Latest Bill That Would End Kentucky's Nuclear Moratorium

Sep 18, 2015

State Rep. Gerald Watkins, at right, joined with Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Sec. Len Peters.
Credit LRC Public Information

  Kentucky state Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah is drafting a new bill that would end the commonwealth’s moratorium on nuclear power plants.

This will be the third time Watkins has tried to get such a bill passed in the state legislature, but with a twist. The legislation Watkins is about to pre-file for next year’s General Assembly would only allow nuclear power facilities in communities that have previously manufactured nuclear products. Watkins says this would limit the site selection to Paducah, home of the shuttered Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

“We need good paying jobs here and with the more stringent EPA regulations on coal-burning facilities, that nuclear and hydroelectricity are the only baseload energy sources that do not leave a carbon footprint," Watkins said.

Watkins spoke Thursday before the General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism, flanked by state Energy and Environment Cabinte secretary Len Peters. He said his plan was well-received by the committee.

Similar bills that stalled in the legislature did not include the language limiting potential plant sites to former nuclear communities. Watkins said coal interests in eastern Kentucky have blocked the bill in years past because they see nuclear as competition, but he says the two energy sources can work in concert.

“I don’t view, at least not here in western Kentucky, nuclear as competition to coal in that, when USEC was in operation, the Tennessee Valley Authority Shawnee Steam Plant was providing $750 million worth of electricity per year and burning 6 million tons of coal," Watkins said.

Watkins said the average economic impact of the country’s nuclear power plants on their local communities is around $470 million every per year.