Can nuclear energy be part of Kentucky's future?

11/16/2012 05:48 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.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at


  • Mike wrote on November 17, 2012 04:15 PM :

    Anyone who witness Fukishima’s nuclear disaster in Japan (that is ongoing, by the way) who would consider putting a nuclear power plant anywhere near the New Madrid Fault, location of the worst earthquake in U. S. history must be insane.

    It is completely impossible to make nuclear power safe in the first place due to the radioactive waste produced; but to put a plant in such a dangerous location is begging to have a major nuclear accident that would probably be worse than Japan’s.

    Tell these folk to start their work on renewables today so we won’t have to deal with nuclear destruction in the future.

  • mike i wrote on November 20, 2012 10:33 PM :

    The comment from mike is as typical as it is uninformed. Renewables are ideal but not practical as a significant source of our energy needs. The newest technologies in nuclear power are modularized, have passive safety systems, use low enriched uranium, are earthquake proof and even bomb proof. The dilema of nuclear technology is the uninformed/scared masses have convinced liberal govts. to basically halt building of the newer/safer power plants. The irony is at the same time we all recognize the need for the power provided by the existing ones so we end up with decades old technology still in service……doesn’t that seem less safe? By building the newer plant designs we would not only help our energy independance but it would be a low emission energy source. Furthermore, all other practical forms of energy also have waste streams that have to be dealt with. The solutions to nuclear fuel waste are very reasonable but unfortunately are not debated honestly in most open forums.

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