So, what’s up in Arizona?
The Senate Committee on Water and Energy narrowly passed SB 1134, a bill that classifies "nuclear energy from sources fueled by uranium fuel rods that include 80 percent or more of recycled nuclear fuel and natural thorium reactor resources under development" to be a renewable-energy source.
That’s pretty specific, since Arizona’s nuclear plant Palo Verde uses neither recycled nuclear fuel or thorium – in fact, no American nuclear plant does. And about labeling nuclear renewable: while it does some of the same things that hydro, solar and wind do, it’s not renewable. Rather, it’s sustainable, meaning that uranium is not depleting at a rate that’s worth worrying about, but it’s not (essentially) infinite, either. It makes sense to consider nuclear energy as part of a “renewable” energy plan, because they are focused on an energy source’s emissions profile, but the semantics can get a little knotty if you let them.
Anyway, the specifics of the bill suggest a bit of micromanaging, but it really isn’t a directive to Palo Verde at all. The goal here is different. Note the second paragraph:
As it stands now, the Arizona Administrative Code R14-2-1801 says nuclear and fossil fuels are not renewable resources. But Senator Steve Smith, a Republican from District 23, and the main sponsor of SB 1134, would like that to be changed.
He told the committee that by not recycling nuclear fuel rods like some European countries do, Arizona is missing out on a lot of potential energy. "Basically we just want to burn that energy twice," he said, and should Arizona decide to incorporate that technology in the future, this bill would allow us to count that as a renewable energy source.
carbon emissions rules would be more of the moment (which may be happening, of course). Still, support for expanding nuclear energy is always welcome and Smith’s effort is certainly welcome. Let’s see what happens with this.