Can nuclear energy be part of Kentucky's future?

11/16/2012 04:48 PM

Leaders of one of the largest power providers in western Kentucky want lawmakers to reconsider their reluctance toward nuclear power so that the agency can meet its goals of spreading out its sources of power by 2020.

Mike Lorek, vice president of nuclear operations for the Tennessee Valley Authority told legislators that the TVA’s goal is to have natural gas, and nuclear each make up 25 percent of electricity with the last quarter covering other sources, such as hyro-electrict. Currently, coal is at 36 percent, natural gas 24 percent and nuclear 18 percent.

Lorek told lawmakers Friday during the meeting of the special subcommittee on energy that his intention is not to replace coal but to have it exist alongside gas and nuclear as a balanced energy mix to keep utility rates as low as possible.

TVA currently operates three nuclear power plants in Tennessee and Alabama.

For years some lawmakers — such as Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah — have been trying to pass legislation to lift the moratorium on building new nuclear power plants.

One of the co-chairs of the committee, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, is a staunch defender of coal but was open minded to having nuclear power play a bigger role in Kentucky’s power picture.

But security is the big question. State Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, outlined his concerns about possible attacks on a nuclear power plant.

“It makes no sense whatsoever to me, for Kentucky to bring nuclear power in here so we can be targeted with something we can’t deal with,” Riner said.

Lorek acknowledged that most of the resistance to nuclear comes from fear as the result of accidents like the Three Mile Island meltdown and the recent one in Fukushima, Japan.

Lorek said a TVA nuclear power plant in the state would still be a long way down the road, even if approved by the legislature.

The TVA serves 29 counties in southwestern and south central Kentucky.


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