West Virginia lifts ban on nuclear power plants
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill yesterday that repeals the state’s quarter-century-old ban on nuclear power plant construction. The legislation, S.B. 4, passed the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates last month with no substantial opposition and will go into effect in May.
S.B. 4 rescinds article 27A of the West Virginia Code, which prohibited “the construction of any nuclear power plant, nuclear factory, or nuclear electric power generating plant until such time as the proponents of any such facility can adequately demonstrate that a functional and effective national facility, which safely, successfully, and permanently disposes of radioactive wastes, has been developed.” 27A also required nuclear facility construction to be economically feasible for West Virginia ratepayers and in compliance with all applicable environmental protection laws, rules, and requirements.
Justice for nuclear: In a letter sent to the legislature following the signing, Justice wrote, “The bill I have signed today is a positive step in modernizing our state’s regulatory environment, but we must work to ensure only positive outcomes from this legislation by continually evaluating any concerns and implementing best practices in any regulation that may be required.” Justice also urged the lawmakers to “continue to research and monitor nuclear initiatives around the nation to ensure appropriate regulatory or safety measures are in place as new technologies are developed and implemented.”
Reaction: The Nuclear Energy Institute was quick to applaud the move. “The forward-thinking decision is part of a national trend to recognize the role of reliable, carbon-free nuclear power in our energy transition,” said Maria Korsnick, NEI’s president and chief executive officer. “Removing antiquated policies like moratoriums on nuclear plant construction serves as a steppingstone toward a decarbonized future and ensures a reliable and cost-effective energy transition that creates good-paying, long-term jobs.
“With more fossil fuel plants retiring, new nuclear technologies are more essential than ever to preserve jobs and provide a supply of always-on carbon-free power,” Korsnick added. “The passage of this bill alongside the state’s recent resolution on grid stability opens the door for advanced nuclear to be the backbone of the energy grid for West Virginia.”
Noteworthy: West Virginia ranked fifth among the states in total energy production in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. It’s an impressive statistic, but one largely due to the state’s current position as a coal producer. In 2020, West Virginia ranked second in coal production (after Wyoming), accounting for 13 percent of the U.S. total. Nearly 90 percent of the state’s electricity consumption in 2020 was supplied by coal.