The West Virginia Senate passed legislation repealing a ban on the construction of nuclear power plants.
Senate Bill 4, which was passed with a 24-7 vote, will now be considered by the House of Delegates.
The bill repeals a section of the state code prohibiting nuclear power plants statewide. It was first suggested by Republican Senate President Craig Blair of Berkeley.
Blair told reporters after the Jan. 25 legislative session that he was “excited” the bill had gained support and passed quickly.
“Another barrier down for economic development in the State of West Virginia,” Blair said. “You can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, also a Republican, was the bill’s lead sponsor.
He said Senate Bill 4 simply indicated lawmakers are “open to discussion” about the possibility of nuclear power in their state.
“We’re not close-minded,” Takubo said to News and Sentinel. “I think it is important for West Virginia to be looking forward to the future, looking forward to diversify and simply say to the rest of the world we are open for discussion should this technology come to our Mountain State.”
West Virginia first banned nuclear power plants in 1996, with limited exceptions permitted. Under the current policy, applicants are required to submit a detailed plan for radioactive waste disposal, economic feasibility for state ratepayers, and compliance measures taken to ensure a facility would meet environmental laws to the Public Service Commission.
Senator Bob Beach (D-Monongalia), Mike Caputo (D-Marion), Rupie Phillips (R-Logan), Randy Smith(R-Tucker), Dave Sypolt (R-Preston), and Hannah Geffert (D-Berkeley) voted against the bill. While they did not oppose nuclear power, they were concerned about the removal of waste.
Interest in nuclear power was sparked by an announcement from Nucor, a North Carolina-based steel company that uses eclectic furnaces rather than coal-fired. Nucor is aiming to work with clean energy companies with the goal of reducing its greenhouse gas output by 77% less than the global average for steelmaking by 2030.
“I know the Nucor Corporation has asked us about what our future plans may be, and this would be a step, as they see it, in the right direction to allow nuclear energy as an energy source,” said Senate Minority Whip Michael Woelfel (D-Cabell) during the session.
“This bill makes us a leader in terms of being all-of-the-above in terms of our energy sources,” Woelfel added.