The state policy “nuclear renaissance”
A state policy “nuclear renaissance” is underway. In 2007, states considered a total of 27 bills pertaining in some way to nuclear energy. By 2011, this number leaped to 204. Since then, it has consistently held steady around 200 bills each year. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) holds general regulatory primacy over nuclear reactors, but it shares authority with the states when it comes to nuclear power plants. State policy, therefore, has significant effects on nuclear energy resources in the United States. To fully understand the state role in nuclear policymaking requires an exploration of underlying causes of this “policy renaissance” and an analysis of emerging state policy trends.
A new ALEC CenterPoint explores systemic factors driving this policy renaissance and provides an overview major nuclear policy trends in the states. ALEC research reveals several developments have combined encouraging states to take a fresh look at nuclear energy policy. The primary systemic factors are the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the recent spate of early nuclear power plant retirements, which appear to be driven by economic challenges arising in part from electricity restructuring and the natural gas boom. State policy on nuclear power is divided but rapidly evolving under the influence of these systemic factors.
This ALEC survey of the state policy landscape suggests moving forward, state nuclear policy discussions will focus on policy interventions to preserve existing nuclear power plants instead of policies that promote new construction. Given the relevance of energy subsidies, mandates and federally regulated wholesale power markets to nuclear power, these policy conversations will hopefully encourage states and the federal government to take a fresh look at unraveling the “Gordian knot” of existing market distorting policies.