Senate panel considers Brown bill to meet federal clean-power standards

8th District lawmaker’s measure would maximize use of nuclear in state carbon-reduction strategy

Today a measure aimed at maximizing the use of nuclear power in the state’s carbon-reduction strategy received a hearing before the Senate energy committee. Sen. Sharon Brown, the Legislature’s leading advocate for nuclear power and sponsor of the bill, highlighted the Obama Administration’s support for “new nuclear” in addressing climate concerns.

“Nuclear power and the commercialization of modular-reactor technology should not be a partisan issue,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “There is broad support from the Obama administration and the U.S. Secretary of Energy for developing this technology and promoting its use. The administration understands that a reliable, carbon-free source of baseload power – like nuclear – is a must for any realistic strategy to reduce carbon emissions.”

In August 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set carbon-emission limits for the nation’s existing power plants in a rule known as the Clean Power Plan.

The EPA’s rule establishes state-specific goals to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants. States are required to develop plans that ensure they achieve those goals. State goals may be met with new nuclear generation, which includes new nuclear reactors that come online and existing facilities that expand their capacity – also known as uprates.

“In order to ensure that nuclear energy remains a key source for U.S. electricity generation well into the future, it is critically important that we invest in these technologies today,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

“Public-private partnerships to develop advanced nuclear capabilities will enable low-carbon nuclear energy to power America for years to come.”

Under Senate Bill 6217, any state plan for Washington submitted to the EPA pursuant to the CPP must provide for the use of new or uprated nuclear generation, including from small modular reactors.

“Like wind and solar, nuclear power produced from SMRs is clean and 100 percent carbon-free,” said Brown. “But unlike wind or solar, which by their very nature are intermittent, SMRs are capable of providing reliable, affordable baseload power. And because of their plug-and-play modular design, SMRs can also provide additional clean power as needed.”

Brown also pointed out the economic benefits of nuclear power. At present, the U.S. nuclear-energy industry supports 100,000 American jobs. Each new nuclear facility creates an average of 1,400 to 1,800 high-paying jobs, often reaching as many as 3,500 jobs during peak construction periods. Once operational, these facilities create 400 to 700 direct and permanent jobs.

Washington’s nuclear facility, located in the district Brown serves, supports more than 1,000 high-paying jobs and has an annual payroll of $440 million. Annually, the nuclear energy industry purchases more than $216 million of materials, services and fuel from more than 1,000 companies in Washington.

“Becoming a leader in clean-energy technology offers tremendous economic-development gains for Washington,” said Brown. “These are the green jobs we’ve been waiting for.”