N.C. governor rejects pronuclear measure

October 5, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

Early last month, Newswire reported that a pronuclear bill under consideration in North Carolina looked likely to make its way to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk, but less likely to be signed into law. We were right on both counts.

On Monday, the Democratic governor vetoed the bill, S.B. 678, which had been passed by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly on September 21. The legislation would have replaced the term “renewable energy” in state statutes with “clean energy” and specified that the new term includes both nuclear fission and fusion. In addition, the bill would have eliminated language impeding the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) from issuing Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity for nuclear facilities.

North Carolina’s current Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard specifically excludes nuclear, along with fossil fuels.

Cooper’s contention: “North Carolina is on a bipartisan path to removing carbon from our electric power sector in the most cost-effective way,” Cooper stated in his October 2 veto message. “This bill attempts to diverge from that path by trying to put construction of traditional power plants, and higher profits for the utility companies, over lower-cost solutions like energy efficiency. North Carolina should consider all pathways to decarbonize, rather than putting a thumb on the scale in favor of building new conventional generation.”

Sponsor responds: “Gov. Cooper’s hardline opposition to nuclear power is a slap in the face to North Carolina’s energy industry,” said Sen. Paul Newton (R., Dist. 34), the General Assembly’s majority leader and a former president of Duke Energy North Carolina, who introduced S.B. 678 on April 6. “He would rather glorify the Green New Deal than strengthen energy production in our state. I look forward to overriding his veto and ensuring that North Carolina can have a reliable electrical grid.”

More bad news: The prospects for overriding Cooper’s veto of S.B. 678 are not particularly bright at this writing, as the measure fell short of veto-proof margins when it passed the legislature.

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