INDIANAPOLIS—The Senate Utilities Committee spent its Thursday morning the way most science teachers wish they could spend theirs: discussing nuclear energy with multiple slideshow presentations. There was even a group presentation from students.

SB 271

Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, discussed Senate Bill 271, which Koch describes as a “framework” for introducing small modular nuclear reactors to the state. The Utilities Committee passed the bill, and it moves to the Senate floor.

Specifically, they discussed Senate Bill 271, which would “create a framework for Indiana, if it so decides, to move into the world of small modular nuclear reactors,” as author Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, described it.

SB 271 would be the first step in introducing nuclear energy to Indiana—something it doesn’t currently produce.

Under the bill, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission would consider whether reactors would replace the energy lost from a coal or natural gas facility and if they could be placed at one of those facilities when granting certificates “for the construction, purchase or lease of small modular nuclear reactors.”

This is especially timely with the A.B. Brown coal plant closing soon and the Clifty Creek Power Plant at risk of closing due to environmental concerns.

The committee spent over three hours on the bill, most of it on testimony.

Alice Caponiti from the Office of Nuclear Energy, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, spoke on the merits of nuclear energy without supporting the legislation.

“In the United States, nuclear energy provides about 20% of our electricity and over 50% of our nation’s annual clean energy production,” Caponiti said.

She also touched on its value to the job economy, saying, “Nuclear energy is a job creator, currently supporting 500,000 U.S. jobs with average salaries that are more than 50% higher than other electricity generation sources.”

The Democrats on the committee—Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and Shelli Yoder, D-Bloomington—presented concerns regarding the environmental impact and general safety of nuclear energy.

SB 271 states that nuclear waste can be stored on site if the operator of the reactor meets the requirements of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Yoder asked about the potential danger doing so as well as the long-term plan for storing waste.

Marc Nichol of the Nuclear Energy Institute described the waste as not taking up a lot of space and being solid, making it easier to store safely.

Nichol said the worst incident involving nuclear reactors that has occurred in America was the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 in Pennsylvania, but no deaths or injuries have been connected to the meltdown.

Nuclear engineering students from Purdue University testified in front of the committee in support of the bill because of the jobs it would bring to the state. Morgan Smith, vice president of the school’s Women in Nuclear group, said she is interested in nuclear energy because she believes it will help combat climate change.

Smith said nuclear power is “the equivalent of taking 100 million passenger vehicles off of the road” in terms of how it reduces carbon emissions.

Tim Maloney spoke for the Hoosier Environmental Council. He said the group doesn’t hold a position on the energy source but expressed concern over the cost.

“[I]t would be especially unwise to roll out costly technology like [advanced small modular reactors], for which there are no commercial projects online now in the U.S.,” Maloney said.

Yoder thanked those for testifying and said, “I remain concerned about the cost, the cost recovery, the impact on the rate payers and the risks involved.”

SB 271 advanced to the Senate on a 8-2 vote, with Randolph joining Republicans in supporting the bill.

Jack Sells is a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

(1) comment


Apparently the Indiana Legislature is incapable of reading history. If they did, they would find out that the nuclear industry from top to bottom, has never told the truth about nuclear waste or the enormous cost of their dubious technology that leaves ratepayers holding an empty bag. This is just one more example of someone wanting to make a fortune selling yet another form of snake oil to unsuspecting or corrupt politicians. BEWARE!

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