Coal-dependent West Virginia lifts nuclear power ban

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday signed a bill eliminating the state‘s ban on nuclear power plants, but warned against intervening to diversify deals energy sources of the state dependent on coal.

Justice said in a letter that any development or placement of nuclear technology in West Virginia “must be done thoughtfully and, most importantly, safely.”

The Republican governor said lawmakers must continue to research and monitor nuclear initiatives “to ensure appropriate regulatory or safety measures are in place as new technologies are developed and implemented.”

Justice called the bill “a positive step” in modernizing the state’s regulatory environment, but said “we must work to ensure only positive outcomes from this legislation by continually evaluating all concerns and implementing best practices in any regulations that may be necessary.”

The state ban on nuclear power plants was enacted in 1996, but nuclear power has grown in popularity in recent years as a tool to control climate change, with supporters noting that it emits few emissions harmful to the planet and that it is on average safer than almost all the others. energy source.

West Virginia is the nation’s second-largest coal producer, behind Wyoming, and accounted for 5% of the nation’s total energy production in 2019, ranking fifth among states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But West Virginia has lost thousands of coal jobs over the past decade as businesses and utilities explore the use of alternative energy sources such as natural gas, solar and electricity. wind.

According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, coal provides 88% of West Virginia’s energy needs, followed by 5% of natural gas, 3.3% of wind, 3.1% of hydro, and 0.2% other energy sources.

There are nuclear power plants in 28 states, although Georgia is the only state with a nuclear project currently under construction. Among surrounding states, there are a total of 8,500 nuclear power jobs in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to the NEI.

Some states are moving away from carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid the worst effects of global warming.

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