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Could Virginia be on the cusp of small modular reactors?

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ

The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would expand nuclear power in Virginia.

Nuclear power might be coming to a small modular reactor near you if Senator Dave Marsden gets his way. The Democrat from Fairfax County has a bill that would allow for early site permitting. Here's Larry Jackson at Appalachian Power.

“With Appalachian Power, we’re particularly concerned about the rate impact any of our projects have on our customers," Jackson says. "The way this is designed is it will spread the cost of this early site permitting over five years."

Opponents say small modular reactors are not ready for prime time.

"This bill is not whether or not you like nuclear energy. It's about the substantial financial risks and who bears them," says Peter Anderson at Appalachian Voices. He points to a similar bill that the South Carolina General Assembly approved almost 20 years ago.

"The state poured nine billion dollars into the V.C. Summer Nuclear Reactor, which was abandoned 10 years later. Customers ultimately were on the hook for $2.3 billion for nothing, not a single electron was ever produced. What they got was a hole in the ground."

Marsden's bill passed a Senate committee with the support of six Republicans and two Democrats.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.