2009-2010 Notable State Legislative Action: Nuclear Power
Nuclear power remained a force and theme for state legislatures during the 2009-2010 legislative sessions. States introduced and actively debated a variety of measures to initiate policy regarding the expansion of nuclear energy and the construction of new facilities, while considering disposal/storage options, financing and transportation issues.
Blue Ribbon Commission
In April 2010, Arizona adopted HCM 2014 urging the U.S. Congress to support state and federal policy initiatives and in favor of a Blue Ribbon Commission to reexamine the country’s plan for used nuclear fuel management as well as provide financial incentives for development of interim storage facilities.
- The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was established, as directed by the President’s January 20, 2010 memorandum for the U.S. Secretary of Energy, to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle and to provide recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to managing the Nation’s used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. BRC Advisory Committee Charter
- The Commission began work in March 2010 and is made up of 15 members with expertise in nuclear issues, including scientists, industry representatives, and respected former U.S elected officials. The Commission will release an interim report within 18 months of the presidential memo issue date and a final report within 24 months. www.brc.gov
Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina introduced resolutions endorsing Yucca Mountain located in Nevada as the national repository for permanent storage of defense nuclear waste and commercial spent nuclear fuel. Minnesota introduced a resolution urging the federal government’s review of the nation’s policy for spent nuclear fuel.
In 2010, Kentucky debated legislation that would have required that nuclear power facilities have a plan for the storage of nuclear waste rather than a means for permanent disposal.
Nuclear Expansion, Construction and Financing
South Carolina, Hawaii, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Utah considered legislation encouraging growth and future use of nuclear power as part of their state’s energy mix.
New nuclear facility construction was considered in 15 states in 2010: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Thirteen states currently have statutory restrictions in place on the construction of new nuclear power facilities: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Minnesota has had a complete ban in place since 1994.
However, six states sought to overturn bans on construction of new reactors in 2009: Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, West Virginia and Wisconsin. No moratoria were successfully lifted.
State Restrictions on New Nuclear Power Facility Construction
Alaska Senate Bill, enacted in June 2010, adds new nuclear utilization plants to the list of nuclear facilities that would require permitting before construction and considers the economics of nuclear energy in deciding where to designate land for such facilities.
Georgia enacted legislation in April 2009 that allows a utility to recover costs from its customers for financing associated with the construction of nuclear generating plants.
- In February 2010, the Obama administration and U.S. DOE supported nuclear energy advancement by announcing its intention to guarantee $8.33 billion in loans for the construction two 1100 megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors in Burke, Ga. Construction has begun and the two reactors will go online in 2017.
Missouri Senate Bill 228, introduced in August 2009, failed to repeal a voter-enacted state-wide ban on “Construction Work in Progress” payments that would have been imposed on Missouri ratepayers to finance a new nuclear power plant. The goal was for ratepayers to assume the financial risks associated with new reactor development.
Iowa House Bill 23 became law in April 2010 and requires certain public utilities to comply with standards and prepare for the possible construction of low carbon emitting generating facilities in the state.
In addition, efforts to get nuclear energy declared a “renewable" source for energy by Arizona, Indiana and Missouri also failed to achieve results.
Michigan, Minnesota, and South Carolina have debated legislation to establish Nuclear Waste Escrow accounts to receive funds from electric utility customers and ratepayers. These interest bearing accounts are separate from the states’ general fund with earnings carried forward to succeeding years.
Wisconsin failed to pass legislation in March 2010 to pressure U.S. Congress to return contributions to the state of Wisconsin from the Nuclear Waste Fund.
- The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 established the Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the development of national repositories for the disposal of high-level radioactive and spent nuclear fuel and requires consumers to pay a fee of 1 mill per kilowatt-hour for power generated. The fund generates roughly $750 million a year with a balance totaling more than $24 billion.
- Under the Act, approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is needed before a repository can begin operation. Following extensive studies of multiple sites, controversy and litigation, Congress amended the NWPA in 1997 and DOE stated its intentions to build a long-term nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, Nevada. NWPA remains federal law and can only be amended by Congress.
Nuclear Waste Fund Payment Information by State, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Chart.
Storage and Transportation
Legislatures in Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin considered legislation in 2010 addressing nuclear waste storage.
Massachusetts has legislation pending that would require local approval for low-level radioactive waste sites. In February 2010, Tennessee failed to pass a bill to urge the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to disapprove the request to import and dispose of low-level waste from Italy, or any other country, in the U.S.
Indiana adopted changes this year to state law regulating transportation of high and low-level radioactive waste, including requiring a state permit, raising fees for shippers, and broadening enforcement for state agencies while increasing penalties for violators.
Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Washington also debated legislation regarding the transportation of nuclear materials.
Sources: Nuclear Energy Institute, 2011, State Net, 2010, and U.S. Department of Energy, 2010