On Wednesday members of the bipartisan Washington State Joint Select Task Force on Nuclear Energy voted unanimously to extend their work into the 2015 legislative session that begins in January. Gathered in Olympia for its last scheduled meeting, the task force also released a draft of its final report to lawmakers.
State Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, who serves on the task force, is one of the state’s leading advocates for increasing the role of nuclear power in Washington’s clean-energy portfolio. She applauded the decision to continue the task force, saying the state has more work to do if lawmakers hope to take advantage of the clean energy and economic-development potential nuclear power provides.
“As our population grows, getting affordable, clean energy to homes and businesses is a top priority,” Brown said. “Nuclear power must be a part of the mix, as it is the only reliable, realistic way to go green. Today’s nuclear power is clean, safe, affordable and one hundred percent carbon-free.
“The nuclear industry holds tremendous promise as both an ample supply of clean energy and an economic engine for Washington jobs, but leaders must take steps now to make our clean-energy, pro-growth future a reality.”
Nuclear power accounts for less than 10 percent of the state’s power portfolio. The nuclear-study group was given until Dec. 15 to examine whether increased nuclear-power production is a viable, cost-effective means of further reducing Washington’s use of carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
At Wednesday’s meeting, task force members unanimously agreed to work informally, while seeking a new formal authorization of the extension during the upcoming session.
Brown serves the 8th Legislative District, which includes the Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear-energy facility. She has been instrumental in promoting nuclear energy in the Legislature, including securing a $500,000 state Department of Commerce grant to study the issue. The grant, awarded to the Tri-City Development Council last year, funded a site analysis of Hanford as a possible location for a new federal Small Modular Reactor (SMR). The results of that analysis cited a savings of more than $300 million by using assets already at Hanford.
“SMRs have great potential to provide affordable, clean energy for the state and more jobs for the people of the Tri-Cities,” said Brown. “Is Washington going to be a leader or a follower when it comes to supporting emerging technologies? We have the resources available to us right here in our state; however, other states are quickly working to develop their assets. Are we going to lead in a responsible way by utilizing the assets we have or will we sit back and watch while other states surpass us?”