Missouri House panel advances nuclear plant bill

A Missouri House committee endorsed legislation Tuesday that would allow utilities to charge electric customers for some costs of developing a second nuclear power plant.

The House Utilities Committee voted 21-2 to advance the legislation — the lone dissenters were a bipartisan duo of first-term lawmakers who said they were concerned about how consumers would be affected. Supporters contend the bill is needed for Missouri to continue consideration of whether to expand the use of nuclear power for electricity.

The bill would let power companies recoup from customers the cost of getting an early site permit from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A 1976 voter-approved law currently bars utilities from charging customers for the costs of a new power plant before it starts producing electricity.

A group of utilities that includes Ameren Missouri, Empire District Electric, Kansas City Power & Light, electric cooperatives and municipal utilities announced in November that they were considering seeking an early site permit for a second nuclear plant in central Missouri. The permit would not specify a plant design or authorize construction, and the group has said it has not decided whether to build a second plant.

Missouri’s only nuclear power plant is near Fulton, about 25 miles northeast of the state capital in Callaway County.

Rep. Glen Klippenstein, R-Maysville, who voted against the legislation Tuesday, said he could support expanding nuclear power but the bill seemed like an effort to shift some of the risk of building a new plant from utilities to customers.

On the flip side, Rep. Jason Holsman voted for the legislation after telling colleagues that he opposes expanding nuclear power. Holsman, D-Kansas City, said the legislation nonetheless is needed for Missouri to keep its energy options open.

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