WV Repeals Restrictions on Nuclear Power

In a fast-tracked process resulting in the passage of SB 4 by the West Virginia Legislature, the state no longer has any statutory guidance on how to evaluate an application to build a nuclear power plant. The repeal bill was signed by the Governor on February 8, 2022. The repealed statute — WV Code 16-27A-2 — set up three reasonable criteria for evaluation: there must be a safe place to store the nuclear waste, the nuclear plant must be affordable for taxpayers and it must comply with all environmental laws.

While the Public Service Commission has rules governing the air emissions and construction issues of all types of power plants, it has no regulations governing the specific evaluation of nuclear power installations and now it will not even have the guidance of a publicly-elected legislative body.

Conservation West Virginia appeared on January 28, 2022 at the public hearing for HB 2882, the companion bill to SB 4. We expressed support for nuclear power as an alternative to the burning of fossil fuels, but only if properly regulated.  We said the repeal of WV Code 16-27A-2 was a step in the wrong direction.

Passage in the House was by a vote of 76-16.  Voting in favor of SB 4 (repeal) were Delegates Barrett (Berkeley), Espinosa (Jefferson), Forsht (Berkeley), Honaker  (Greenbrier), Horst (Berkeley), Hott (Grant), Householder (Berkeley), Howell (Mineral), Longanacre (Greenbrier), Miller (Morgan), Nestor (Randolph, Reed (Berkeley), Rowan (Hampshire), Thompson (Randolph), and Ward (Berkeley).  Voting against SB 4 was Delegate Doyle (Jefferson).

In the Senate the vote to pass SB 4 was 24-7.  Voting in favor of SB 4 were Senators Baldwin (Greenbrier), Hamilton (Upshur, Pendleton), Karnes (Randolph), Trump (Morgan), and Blair (Berkeley). Voting against were Senators Geffert (Jefferson, Berkeley), and Smith (Grant, Hardy, Mineral).

In his transmittal letter after signing SB 4, Governor Justice said “I call upon our Legislature to continue to research and monitor nuclear initiatives around the Nation to ensure appropriate regulatory and safety measures are in place as new technologies are developed and implemented.”

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