Pa. state lawmakers form first-ever nuclear energy caucus

A bipartisan group of Pennsylvania state legislators from the House and the Senate have formed a caucus in the General Assembly to focus on nuclear energy issues.

This will be the first nuclear caucus in a state legislature in the history of the United States, according to a March 16 news release related to the formation of the caucus.

The caucus was unveiled by Pennsylvania State Sens. Ryan Aument, a Republican, and John Yudichak, a Democrat, along with state Representatives Becky Corbin, a Republican, and Rob Matzie, a Democrat.

There are currently 67 members of the Nuclear Energy Caucus. Its first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 22.

"This caucus will give members of the General Assembly an opportunity to become more educated about nuclear energy's economic and environmental value and provide another voice in other important discussions, including electric power reliability, affordability and safety," said Senator Aument.

Pennsylvania is home to five nuclear stations, making it the second largest nuclear capacity state in the U.S. The electricity produced from Pennsylvania's nuclear sources represents nearly 37% of the state's total power production.

"Given our state's prominence in energy production, it is important that lawmakers focus on an inclusive energy policy that promotes and respects the contribution that each resource offers," said Senator Yudichak. "The Nuclear Energy Caucus, like the other energy caucuses in the General Assembly, is a great place to advance the many unique attributes that nuclear power sources offer in balancing the overall energy mix."

"Our collective goal is to have a continuing, ongoing dialogue about Pennsylvania's nuclear energy assets," said Aument in the news release. "Certainly, as we look around the country, there is little doubt that nuclear energy sources — like many other resources — are struggling."

He noted that since 2013, five nuclear stations have ceased power production in the U.S. and begun decommissioning, with another seven plants already announced that they plan to close by 2019, in addition to two other plants planning to shutter four more reactors by 2025.

State legislatures move to support to nuclear generation

News of the formation of the nuclear energy caucus in Pennsylvania comes as lawmakers in other states have taken steps to support existing nuclear power plants.

Illinois and New York have provided support to struggling nuclear plants through zero-emission credit programs.

In December, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed S.B. 2814, which will provide about $235 million a year through a 10-year contract to two nuclear power plants owned by Exelon.
The 1,065-MW Clinton and 1,871-MW Quad Cities plants in Illinois faced looming shutdowns.

And in August, the New York Public Service Commission approved a renewable energy plan that requires load serving entities to buy zero-emissions credits over 12 years from the cash-strapped FitzPatrick, Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants in upstate New York.

The plants are expected to receive about $450 million a year in the first two years of the program. Exelon owns the Ginna and Nine Mile plants and is buying the FitzPatrick plant from Entergy.

Investor-owned utility FirstEnergy has pressed for legislation in Ohio that would provide financial support to two nuclear power plants through a "zero emission credits" program modeled after ones in Illinois and New York.

Without additional revenue, Ohio-based FirstEnergy may shutter its 908-megawatt Davis-Besse and 1,268-MW Perry nuclear plants, which sell their power into the PJM Interconnection market.