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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Senate approves nuke study

OLYMPIA -- Washington should study whether more nuclear power should be added to the state's power grid, the Senate said today.

In 34-15 vote, the Senate approved a bill calling for a study of new "modular" nuclear technologies to see whether they make economic sense. It wasn't a call to build more nuclear plants but a study on whether to incorporate nuclear energy in the future, Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said.

The Navy operates nuclear reactors on ships in Puget Sound without incident, Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said. "We shouldn't just say no because it's nuclear."

The debate featured some of the same back and forth that has marked discussions of nuclear power in the country for 40 years. Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said fears about nuclear safety "have been overblown" and contended residents of the southeast and Atlantic Coast who are facing long power outages because of a storm would be happy to have more power. Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, said he was confusing power generation with power transmission, which was the source of those outages.

But Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, cited nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukashima, and said the state was "only lucky" it hasn't had such problems at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

"Why would be looking at this as a new source of energy? Over the last 50 years it has been a disaster," Rolfes said.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said he had no problem with the study, but did say the language e in the bill's intent section was too broad in declaring nuclear power a "safe industry."


Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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