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Friday, March 27, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Washington lawmaker calls for focus on nuclear energy

By Chad Sokol Murrow News Service

OLYMPIA – The state should embrace nuclear energy by investing in small reactors that can fit on a train or semitruck, a Tri-Cities legislator says.

Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is the prime sponsor of eight bills that call for enhanced interest in nuclear energy. One of them got a hearing Tuesday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

“I think it’s really important that we as a state get our arms around the siting of small, modular nuclear reactors,” she said.

Traditional nuclear power plants generate 1,000 megawatts or more of electricity. But small modular reactors generate 300 megawatts or less. They can be built in a factory and shipped to the site where they would be used. More reactors can be added to scale up power production.

The bill calls for a panel of state agencies, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, to find places in Washington where small reactors could be installed. The study would cost about $176,000 and a final report would be due in December.

Supporters said at an earlier hearing that nuclear energy is clean and could bolster the state’s economy. Opponents said it’s dangerous and hydropower is a much better alternative.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously adopted a measure urging Congress to develop a permanent storage facility for the nation’s nuclear waste.

“Storage of nuclear waste is an obligation and commitment that the federal government has failed to meet,” Brown, who introduced the measure, said in a statement.

In 2011, the Obama administration stopped work on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada, which was planned to take used fuel from the Columbia Generating Station near Richland and much of Hanford’s most radioactive waste.

Brown’s other bills promote nuclear energy – and small reactors – as part of the state’s energy policy. Five of them could come to a full vote in the Senate in the coming weeks.

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