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State Legislators Consider the Role of Advanced Reactors; Plan for the Future of American Energy

With more attention directed towards our environment and the increasing concerns around climate change, state policymakers are more motivated than ever to take legislative action to ensure a stronger power grid and cleaner environment. What is most notable about these efforts is how non-partisan they appear to be as politicians work across the aisle in an attempt to bring about rapid and effective change.

While wind and solar are major contenders in the green energy industry, nuclear continues to dominate space as the nation’s top carbon-free energy source, and lawmakers have begun to recognize its benefits. Nuclear power is reliable and affordable and currently accounts for 475,000 jobs and $12 billion in revenue, while saving roughly 470 million metric tons of carbon pollution from being released into our atmosphere.

With benefits like these, state legislators have plenty of motivation to proactively and aggressively leverage nuclear energy as a key element in the fight for climate progress, regardless of partisan politics. In fact, 2022 has been a remarkable year in terms of how many smart energy policies have been passed in several states, even just in the first six months.

Here are some of the most recent actions some states have taken to ensure a stronger power grid and cleaner environment.

Expansion of Support for Nuclear Power

Many states with existing nuclear projects are working to expand their support base within the communities that host them. As awareness of the need for clean energy increases, it’s important that citizens realize the role that nuclear energy plays in achieving their goals. In Pennsylvania, widespread public support already exists, perhaps in large part due to legislation and awareness efforts that have already been put in place. But in other states, like Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee, and Washington, majority support is still a work in progress but continues to expand.

Wyoming recently welcomed a new nuclear build, with four different communities competing for the opportunity to host the reactor. The project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in an effort to build more small advanced reactors throughout the country. Interest in similar nuclear plants is expanding into Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho, and North Dakota, as these states reconsider the role of nuclear in their energy plans.

Legislation in Support of Nuclear Power

Nearly a dozen states are either debating or have already passed bills that allow for exploration into the feasibility of advanced reactors for energy production. Bills were passed in Nebraska, New Hampshire, and Virginia. The issue was also debated in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kentucky, and Colorado, and discussions continue in Michigan, Ohio, and New Jersey.

While Connecticut and West Virginia both had moratoriums in place prohibiting any new nuclear builds, both states have since done away with them either fully or in part. Similarly, Alaska has relaxed existing regulations which limit the siting of micro-reactors. They also have made a point to include nuclear in their clean energy standards going forward.

Many of the states listed above have considered the advantages of transitioning from coal to nuclear, even to the point of repurposing existing coal plants into small advanced reactors. In the state of Maryland, the Energy Administration has awarded a grant to X-energy and the University of Maryland to examine these possibilities in greater depth.

We are halfway through 2022, and midterm elections are on the horizon. A new generation of policymakers will soon be in place to consider the future of nuclear energy for our nation, both now and in the future. We hope to see momentum for nuclear technology continue to build toward growth and expansion as we move into 2023 and beyond.

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