Senate passes Brown measures on nuclear education and jobs

Today the Senate approved two measures sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown aimed at supporting nuclear education and preparing the state to attract more economic development and jobs tied to the nuclear power industry.

Brown, a member of the Senate’s energy committee and the Legislature’s leading advocate for nuclear power, called her Nuclear Ambassadors Program a “game-changer” in how the state sees nuclear power and prepares its young people to enter the field.

“Knowledge is power, and this is especially true when it comes to nuclear energy,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “For many people, especially those of an older generation, the term ‘nuclear power’ automatically brings to mind Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

“This fear is not based on an understanding of today’s nuclear power. Nuclear technology has made great strides since then, and is set for even greater strides with the next generation of small modular reactors.

“One way to ensure that young people, who will work on next-generation nuclear technology and benefit from the power it produces, understand nuclear energy is to introduce them to our many great scientists, engineers and others who work in the nuclear field.”

Senate Bill 5093 , which passed the Senate 44-5, would create a nuclear-education program, aimed at helping science educators teach nuclear science and technology. The program would award grants for:

  1. classroom visitors, called nuclear ambassadors, who can introduce nuclear science and technology to students in grades 8–12; and
  2. science teachers to attend workshops on nuclear energy.

Under Brown’s bill, the nuclear-education program would be administered by the director of the Washington State University Energy Program.

“Meeting the 21st century environmental and energy challenges faced by the families and employers of the Pacific Northwest will require a workforce trained in next-generation technology,” Brown points out. “If we want Washington’s students to be able to compete for these high-paying jobs, we have to start introducing them to nuclear science and technology early on and nurturing their interest in this growing field.”

By a vote of 27-21, the Senate also endorsed Senate Bill 5113, Brown’s measure to require the Department of Commerce to coordinate and advance the siting and manufacturing of small modular reactors (SMRs) in the state to meet future energy, environmental and energy-security needs.

“Oregon, Idaho and Utah are engaged in discussions around SMRs; where is Washington State in those discussions?” asked Brown. “We have the intellectual capital; we have the ability. Successful companies create a plan, a path forward. Are we going to forge a path forward to more manufacturing jobs, more gainfully employed residents or are we going to sit back and watch states around us take our intellectual capital, while we say ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda?’”

Both measures, key components of the Senate Majority Coalition’s carbon-reduction plan, now head to the House of Representatives for its consideration.