Riddle offers bill to foster nuclear power site permit

Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, has introduced legislation that allows Ameren Missouri to recover costs of obtaining an early site permit for a second reactor at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant.

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Rep. Jeanie Riddle

Riddle represents the Callaway County area near Reform where the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant is located.

Freshman Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, has introduced identical legislation, known as Senate Bill 50, in the Missouri Senate.

Offering identical legislation in both houses of the Missouri General Assembly will give a good reading on how each body views various features of the proposal.

As she begins her second two-year term as a state representative, Riddle learned she has been appointed to the Missouri House Utilities Committee, which will hear the proposed Callaway plant legislation. Riddle rounded up 29 co-sponsors of the legislation, including the chairman and vice chairman of the Utilities Committee, along with nine other members of the committee.

Riddle said she was pleased she was appointed to the Utilities Committee and to the Missouri House Ethics Committee.

Riddle also has been named as the Missouri House majority assistant floor leader, the fourth-highest leadership position in the Missouri House.

“The leadership position involves a lot of work and for this reason I won’t serve on as many committees this year,” Riddle said.

The assistant majority floor leader works with the majority floor leader to set the legislative calendar and determine which legislation makes it to the floor for consideration and when it is debated. The assistant majority floor leader also helps control the flow of business on the House floor. If the floor leader is not available, Riddle will assume his duties in determining legislative priorities.

Riddle’s proposed nuclear site permit legislation, known as House Bill 124, would allow a utility building a nuclear reactor to recover expenditures for the permit only after the permit is obtained and the recovery costs could be spread over a period of up to 20 years to decrease the impact on rate payers.

Under the proposed legislation, a company receiving an early site permit for a nuclear reactor from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is required to submit reports to the Missouri Public Service Commission every six months. The reports must document the work completed and costs incurred up to that point toward the acquisition of the early site permit as well as the amount of work remaining.

If the cost of the early site permit is expected to exceed $40 million, the company must include an explanation in its reports as to why expenditures beyond the amount are prudent.

Ameren Missouri and a consortium of other Missouri utilities have joined together to support an early site permit at the Callaway plant. The other utilities include Kansas City Power & Light, Empire District Electric, Associated Electric Cooperatives, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the Missouri Public Utility Alliance.

Riddle’s bill would allow other electric companies that also incur expenses toward the early site permit to recover their costs through rates and charges.

Under the bill any electric company that has recovered costs from rate payers relating to an early site permit must refund its rate payers up to the amount collected if the early site permit is sold or transferred.

Gov. Jay Nixon has endorsed the move for an early site permit at the Callaway plant. Nixon said the early site permit does not change the initiative-passed measure that prohibits private utilities from charging customers for building a nuclear plant while it is under construction.

Opponents of the proposal already have started television commercials in opposition to the proposed legislation.

“There is no doubt the nuclear site permit legislation will face opposition. It seems like it always happens. I think this bill is the correct way to proceed to meet the future energy needs of this state,” Riddle said. “The early site permit is only the first step in the long process of building a nuclear reactor. It also includes environmental studies.”

She said the latest estimate is that it will take about three years to secure an early site permit.

“The great thing about an early site permit is that it is good for 20 years. It is also possible to file for an extension that may be able to extend it up to 40 years if necessary,” Riddle said.

She said building a second reactor at the Callaway Nuclear Plant is vital to the state in order to meet future energy needs, create jobs and improve the economy.

“You cannot separate economic development from energy. If we want Missouri to move forward, we must have a vision for our future that includes energy that we can afford,” Riddle said.

“Missouri now has the seventh lowest energy costs in the nation. We are there because of the people who came before me who had a vision of where we needed to be to move forward. We are at that point again,” she continued. “About 80 percent of our energy comes form coal. Between now and 2017 there are numerous EPA regulations that will make our rates go up. Where else can we go if the EPA makes it very difficult for us to use coal to generate electricity. The key is affordability of rates. Nuclear is by far the least expensive and efficient way to generate electricity.”

Riddle said all utilities in the state have banded together to support development of nuclear power because they realize it is the best way to create affordable energy.

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