Nuclear plant debate heats up

Legislation has bipartisan support; foes’ robo calls, advertisements begin

The cooling tower looms at the Callaway nuclear plant near Reform, Mo. Debate has begun on how to pay for a second nuclear plant in Missouri.

The cooling tower looms at the Callaway nuclear plant near Reform, Mo. Debate has begun on how to pay for a second nuclear plant in Missouri. Photo by Julie Smith.

Sen. Mike Kehoe’s first piece of legislation is facing a barrage of television and radio ads, and robocalls, opposing the bill to help pave the way for a second nuclear plant in Missouri.

The freshman Republican seems unfazed: “I’ve met with those folks and certainly I want to keep an open discussion,” Kehoe said, adding he’s willing to consider changes suggested by the opponents.

Already, the bill and the plan for a second plant have gained some bipartisan support, including backing from Gov. Jay Nixon. “The sooner the process is started, the sooner our state will reap the rewards,” the governor said in November.

The proposed legislation is being pushed by a Missouri energy consortium that includes Ameren Missouri. Ameren spokesman Mike Cleary said the company believes that the current location of its Callaway nuclear plant is “a very desirable location for another plant.”

The Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF) has opposed the bill with robocalls and a 30-second television ad that has appeared across Ameren Missouri’s customer base. “Big energy is at it again in Jeff City,” the ad starts. “Their nuclear permit? The facts: You pay for it now, even though they may never build a plant.”

Kehoe’s bill, SB50, would let an electric company recover expenses for getting an early site permit from the federal government. Customers would see the cost reflected in their bills after the permit is given, but before the plant is built.

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A bill similar to Kehoe’s has also been filed in the House by Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, whose district includes Fulton and the southern part of Callaway County.

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