West Virginia has never utilized nuclear energy. In fact, West Virginia’s only interaction with nuclear energy was in 1996 when the state codified its intention to never employ nuclear energy by instituting a moratorium on nuclear power production over concerns of waste disposal and economic feasibility. These concerns were exacerbated by common misconceptions and many ill-informed stigmas that have surrounded the nuclear industry for decades.
Luckily, years of experience and technological advances have brought us to a new dawn in the nuclear industry, and West Virginia is set to embrace the words of Marie Curie: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
After 26 years of advancements in technology, changes in the geopolitical landscape, and increased nuclear-sector job opportunities and related revenue flooding into the surrounding states, on February 8, 2022, West Virginia repealed the state’s nuclear moratorium with the signing of Senate Bill 4. The bill passed the West Virginia Senate 24 to 7, and the West Virginia House 76 to 16, showing immense support for nuclear energy and what it could mean to our communities. The repeal of the moratorium went into effect on May 1, 2022.
Lifting the moratorium allows the construction of nuclear power plants, nuclear factories, and nuclear electric power generating plants in West Virginia. This is in part due to West Virginia’s initiative to be an “all of the above energy state,” as well as the nation’s shift to greener forms of energy to combat climate change, and because West Virginia has seen an incredible inflow of new businesses into the state. Many of these business want affordable, reliable, and, most of all, cleanly generated electric power; as well as the ability to utilize the thermal energy nuclear provides to assist in manufacturing and industrial processes.
West Virginia ranked fifth among states in total energy production in 2019, according to the Energy Information Administration. The inclusion of nuclear energy will help West Virginia remain a top energy producing state, and can transform us into a key player in bolstering America’s energy independence.
Nuclear energy has been widely accepted in the Appalachian Region outside of Kentucky and West Virginia. However, like West Virginia, Kentucky lifted its ban on nuclear energy in 2017 and is currently examining funding sources and institutions to conduct feasibility studies of advanced nuclear energy technology for electric power generation. The nuclear power plants from all of the states in the Appalachia Region alone currently provide over 20,000 permanent jobs and provided countless construction jobs during their development. Seeing what is capable through nuclear energy, West Virginia can now look to bolster its energy industry, power plant communities, and industrial and manufacturing businesses through the inclusion of nuclear energy.
With this understanding of West Virginia’s relationship with nuclear energy in mind, our next installment will look at the status of the current nuclear fleet, the benefits of nuclear energy, and the advances leading the way for the next generation of reactors to come. For additional information, visit the Bowles Rice Nuclear Energy webpage to review our team and services, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @AtomicAttorney for all the latest industry news.