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Nuclear energy bill receives Senate hearing

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Fermi 2 nuclear facility in Monroe County

A bill before a Michigan Senate committee would require state regulators to commission a feasibility study on nuclear energy.

That study would look at the economic and environmental impacts of generating nuclear power in the state.

State Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) sponsors the bill. He said the study would help policymakers make better choices about the state’s nuclear future — including small modular reactors, or SMRs.

“There’s just no way that solar and wind can provide the massive power generation that nuclear can, and so what are we doing with nuclear going forward are we opening our eyes to SMRs?” Filler said Tuesday following a hearing on the bill.

SMRs take up less space and can be more cost effective than traditional nuclear power stations, though detractors say they could produce more waste.

Opponents to the study say the state should instead invest in beefing up its renewable energy portfolio since nuclear energy can get pricey. Jim Sherman is with the nuclear opposition group Citizens’ Resistance at Fermi 2, named in reference to the Fermi 2 power plant in Monroe County.

“Renewable energies are cyclical, not only in their operation but in their construction and deployment. Nuclear is completely a stream. From mining to extraction, processing, transportation, the fissioning reaction at the atomic reactor itself to the unsolved problems of the waste,” Sherman said.

Still, Filler said the state should look for ways to modernize its nuclear infrastructure with future technology, like SMRs.

“You could plug an SMR into the existing infrastructure. Now, SMRs are still a couple years away. Everyone is investing in them right now. They think that they’re the future because you don’t have to build the billion-, billion-dollar infrastructure but they’re not there yet. So why not study?” he said.

Tuesday’s meeting comes weeks after the state announced support for plans to restart operations at the recently-closed Palisades nuclear facility in southwest Michigan. Earlier this year, the state unsuccessfully lobbied to keep the plant open before its closure and sale for decommissioning.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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