A Washington House committee will start work on four bills — three nuclear and one hydropower — with a public hearing March 25.
The bills, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, have passed the state Senate and advanced to the House Technology and Economic Development Committee.
Remote testimony from the Pasco campus of Columbia Basin College is not expected to be available. Those interested in testifying will need to travel to Olympia for the 8 a.m. session.
The House Technology and Economic Development Committee has a 7-6 majority of Republicans, but Brown and other senators worked to produce bipartisan support and included key amendments from Democratic colleagues, Brown said.
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The bills have had some opposition in earlier hearings.
Critics have said that the small modular nuclear reactors favored by Brown use unproven technology and significant investments would be required to bring them to market. They also have questioned whether nuclear power can compete economically with natural gas, solar and wind.
“Nuclear power is a carbon-free source of reliable, baseload power and small modular reactors are supported by the Obama administration, Gov. Inslee, former Gov. Chris Gregoire and nearly our entire Congressional delegation,” Brown said.
Brown has proposed a Nuclear Ambassadors Program to provide education about nuclear power in Senate Bill 5093, which passed the Senate 44-5.
“Some confuse the issue of legacy waste from our nation’s nuclear weapons program with the smaller, more manageable issue of commercial waste,” she said.
Nuclear technology has advanced in recent decades and will advance more with the next generation of small modular reactors, she said.
“It’s critical that our young people understand next-generation nuclear technology and are prepared to compete for the high-paying jobs this clean energy field will provide,” she said.
The House committee also will discuss Senate Bill 5113, which would direct the state Department of Commerce to coordinate and advance the siting and manufacturing of small modular reactors in the state.
She’s concerned that Oregon and Idaho already are engaged in discussions on small modular reactors and does not want Washington, particularly the Tri-Cities, to be left behind. The small reactors are proposed to be shipped already manufactured to the locations they would be used. More modules could be added as locations’ needs for electricity increases.
Senate Bill 5091 would add nuclear-generated power to the list of alternative clean-energy sources in the state’s voluntary Green Power Program.
Brown’s hydropower legislation, Senate Bill 5094, would allow additional hydropower produced as the result of efficiencies to qualify as renewable under Washington’s Energy Independence Act, even if it is marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration. The provision already applies to some utilities that own dams.