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Pennsylvania Boasts America’s First-Ever State Legislative Nuclear Caucus

If you believe that a lot of action is taking place at the state level when it comes to policy affecting nuclear energy, you’re right, and the latest news comes out of Pennsylvania. State Senators Ryan Aument (R-36) and John Yudichak (D-14) along with Representatives Becky Corbin (R-155) and Rob Matzie (D-16) last week announced the formation of the Pennsylvania Nuclear Energy Caucus -- a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to focus on nuclear energy issues. Theirs is the first nuclear caucus in a state legislature in the history of the United States.
Caucus co-chair Representative Becky Corbin's district includes the Limerick Nuclear Generating Facility.
“This caucus will give members of the General Assembly an opportunity to become more educated about nuclear energy’s economic and environmental value and provide another voice in other important discussions, including electric power reliability, affordability and safety,” said Senator Aument.

Pennsylvania is home to five nuclear stations, making it the second largest nuclear capacity state in America. The electricity produced from Pennsylvania’s nuclear sources represents nearly 37 percent of the Commonwealth’s total power production, helping make the state the second largest producer of electricity in the nation and the top net exporter of electricity. Given the importance of Pennsylvania’s nuclear energy assets, it’s understandable that state lawmakers would take notice at so pivotal a time for industry.

Nuclear plants today are facing significant, durable financial headwinds, attributable to an abundance of cheap natural gas and depressed electricity demand. In many areas, the local nuclear power plant is the economic anchor of the community. These four state lawmakers know well the value of the nuclear plants in their communities.

Once a reactor begins operating, it will employ 700 to 1,000 skilled workers who will operate the plant for 60 to 80 years – likely the remainder of this century. When a nuclear plant closes, the negative economic consequences of the shutdown cascade. Our nation’s nuclear power plants truly are irreplaceable assets, a cornerstone of our national energy infrastructure, and once shut down are permanently lost.
NCSL energy program staff, Kristine Hartman and Dan Shea, co-authored the white paper on state options to preserve the nuclear fleet.
At yesterday’s first Pennsylvania Nuclear Energy Caucus event legislators filled the room for a briefing provided by the National Council of State Legislators. Just last month NCSL released a white paper titled “State Options for Keeping Nuclear in the Energy Mix.” NCSL researchers briefed the new Caucus on core findings in the state capitol.

The Q&A portion of the Caucus’ first event was a highlight. There was a wide array of diversity of energy policy opinions expressed by all the legislators present, some asking about advanced reactor licensing, others looking forward and some looking back asking about federal oversight and the legacy of used fuel. A unifying theme was a broad recognition among all the policymakers of the value and contributions of nuclear energy to the Commonwealth. That recognition is very much at the forefront of what this Caucus seeks to affirm and draw more attention to.

The above is a guest post from Christine Csizmadia, director of state governmental affairs and advocacy at NEI. Follow Christine on Twitter at @CCsizmadia.

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