Kentucky utilities to further study nuclear power possibilities



(The Center Square) – Two Kentucky energy providers say they plan to use federal funding to continue studying whether there are sites in the state that could be suitable for nuclear power generation.

In a news release, PPL Corp., which owns Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities, said its subsidiaries will work with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and X-Energy, a nuclear design engineering firm, in the assessment.

Previously, the two providers reviewed their Ghent Generation Plant in Carroll County, which is located halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati. They found the site could house a small modular reactor. However, there were concerns about the plant’s size and whether a larger, traditional reactor could be located there. While SMRs require smaller investments, more traditional-sized nuclear reactors can produce more than three times the power, helping to reduce the cost of generating electricity.

Besides scouting other sites for potential nuclear development, the study will also determine whether partnerships of high-energy consumers, such as factories and data centers, could rely on the cleaner power source to reach their carbon-cutting goals without impacting cost or reliability. The work will be funded by a DOE grant, although the release did not reveal its amount.

“Nuclear energy is a carbon-free solution that has the potential to meet our customers’ needs and support manufacturing and data center growth, particularly if technology such as nuclear small modular reactors become more cost-competitive,” PPL President and CEO Vincent Sorgi said in the release. “These in-depth studies are important to determining whether nuclear energy at our locations may be a viable solution moving forward.”

Support for nuclear energy has picked up steam in Kentucky in recent years. This year, state lawmakers passed a bill creating a nuclear energy authority and an incentive program to support nuclear development in the Bluegrass State. Although he said he does not necessarily oppose nuclear power, Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed the bill, citing concerns about who would control the authority.

The Republican-led legislature easily overturned the Democratic governor’s veto.

Kentucky’s connection to nuclear energy dates back more than 70 years, when construction started on the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Western Kentucky. The 3,500-plus acre complex enriched uranium initially for weapons before being converted to develop the material for commercial power plants.

State Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, has been one of the most ardent supporters of nuclear power in the Kentucky General Assembly. The Paducah plant is in his district. In May, he attended an energy conference in Washington state to discuss how Kentucky is considering nuclear power to promote the country’s energy independence.

“It is imperative that Kentucky not only supports but leads in advancing nuclear energy,” he said at the Energy Communities Alliance conference. “Our efforts to establish the Kentucky Nuclear Energy Development Authority signify our commitment to being at the forefront of nuclear innovation while embracing our all-of-the-above energy approach.”

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