Leeper making last push to undo ban on building nuclear power plants in Ky.

01/29/2014 06:42 PM

In his last session before retiring, independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah is making one last run at a bill to override a 30-year moratorium on building nuclear power plants in Kentucky.

The measure easily made it through the Senate’s energy committee with just Democratic Sen. Robin Webb, who hails from coal country, voting no.

Leeper represents the district that is home to the former gaseous diffusion plant that enriched uranium for nuclear fuel until last year.

He said he hopes Senate Bill 67 would open the door for the next generation of nuclear power plants to be built in Kentucky and potentially in the western Kentucky counties of the 2nd District he represents.

A 1984 law, passed five years after the Three Mile Island accident at a Pennsylvania nuclear plant and before the Chernobyl meltdown, effectively barred construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky by requiring any plant must have access to a permanent radioactive waste disposal facility.

Senate Bill 67 requires a plan for storage — rather than disposal — of nuclear waste. Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, has introduced a similar measure in the House.

“We have a very well educated workforce”, said Leeper. “We have a number of engineers, we have a number of people who are comfortable with the nuclear process and we believe that it would be attractive to the nuclear industry to look at Kentucky because of that trained workforce.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, told the committee that the state should not allow any nuclear plants as long as the industry has no plans
for permanent storage of nuclear waste.

“Lifting that moratorium and saying all you have to do is have a storage plan in place is sending the wrong message to the nuclear industry, to the electric industry, that you don’t have to have a current plan in place to deal with waste that will have to be managed for a millennium,” FitzGerald said.

Similar bills, sponsored by Leeper, have not passed in recent years.

This will be his last year in the Senate has he announced that he will not seek reelection.


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