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Saturday, March 29, 2008

USA: Lawmakers seek end to nuclear power plant ban

Construction Forbidden before Federal Waste Disposal System Ready

Some lawmakers hope to lift a longstanding ban on construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 156 would repeal a 1984 law that prohibits new nuclear plants until the federal government finalizes a nuclear waste disposal system. So far, the government has not, despite controversial plans to establish Yucca Mountain in Nevada as a national radioactive waste disposal site.

Rather than wait for a federal solution, Kentucky should simply allow its Public Service Commission to begin the approval process for nuclear plants, said Sen. Bob Leeper, an Independent from Paducah and the bill's sponsor. His district includes the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the nation.

Without a national disposal site, plants in Kentucky would have to make their own plans for waste storage.

About 30 companies are currently considering whether and where in the United States to open nuclear plants that could result in $4 billion investments each, Leeper said.

"I just want to put Kentucky on the map," Leeper told the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment on Thursday.

Chairman Jim Gooch, D-Providence, said he likes the bill and considers coal and nuclear to be America's energy future, while wind and solar power offer "false hopes."

However, Gooch's committee could not approve the bill Thursday because too few of its members attended the hearing to provide a quorum. A special hearing might be called in the final days of the 2008 session to adopt the bill and allow it the House vote it needs to reach the governor's desk and be signed into law, Gooch said.

In the audience, environmental activist Tom FitzGerald said he opposes the bill because it "would send the wrong message" on nuclear power, particularly as the national debate over radioactive waste does not appear settled.

(Source: www.kentucky.com)

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