Kentucky is close to lifting a decades-old moratorium on nuclear waste storage in the state. While Senate Bill 11 also clears a path for the construction of nuclear power plants, a reactor in the commonwealth would still be a long way off.
Lawmakers have worked for years to eliminate the 1980s-era moratorium - and 2017 could be the year it comes off the books. Advocates argue diversifying the state's energy portfolio beyond coal and renewables will create jobs and attract more industry. House Economic Development Committee chair Jim DeCesare also points to increasing demand.
"There's a need. There's been nuclear in other states, so we just need it because we need the energy to run our industries and run our homes," he said.
But even if the bill finally wins approval, Kentuckians aren't likely to see cooling towers on the horizon any time soon.
"Lifting the moratorium is not going to bring nuclear to Kentucky," Tom FitzGerald with the Kentucky Resources Council says. "There will have to be a number of fundamental changes in the economics of nuclear power, but it does allow for some research possibly to come to the state in terms of finding safer ways to generate electricity using nuclear fuel."
Typically an opponent of nuclear, FitzGerald is taking a neutral stance on the bill, praising new provisions requiring nuclear proposals to more fully account for the costs of operation, waste storage, and decommission.
Unlike current laws mandating nuclear facilities arrange a permanent means of disposal, SB11 would only require them to offer a plan for safe storage to be reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Senate-approved measure passed a House committee Tuesday and now heads to the full chamber.
If successful, the bill's sponsor, Paducah Republican Danny Carroll, says it would likely take 15-20 years before a nuclear reactor could be built in the commonwealth.