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Our Opinion: Powering the future

Our Opinion: Powering the future

News Tribune editorial

April 22nd, 2012 in News

A pair of energy companies with long Jefferson City ties have offered new hope for Missouri's proponents of nuclear energy.

Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric announced last week a bid for federal energy funds to build small nuclear reactors.

Westinghouse would use the funds to support the engineering, design certification and operating licensure of small modular nuclear reactors. Ameren Missouri then would become the nation's first power company to apply for a construction and operating license that would allow it to build and operate up to five of the small reactors.

If all goes right, it still might take until 2022 before any possible new reactors would come online in Missouri. But the potential for energy, jobs and development is impossible to ignore.

Ameren has been a chief supplier of electricity in Missouri for years. Its Callaway nuclear plant 25 miles away brought a wealth of jobs during its construction in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And for years, Westinghouse was a staple of Jefferson City industry when it operated the plant it later sold to ABB, the current occupant.

Previous attempts to expand nuclear energy in Missouri have faced criticism. But two groups who have opposed each other - the Fair Energy Rate Action Fund and Missourians for a Balanced Energy Future - hailed last week's announcement as positive steps for the state's energy needs.

Introducing the small modular reactor technology could yield benefits besides the obvious. If the Westinghouse-Ameren efforts are successful, Mid-Missouri is poised to take a lead role in the continuing and production development of this technology.

The proximity of the University of Missouri, Lincoln University, Linn State Tech and Missouri S&T offers unique opportunities for industry/educational partnerships that could cement the state's role in a new global technology.

There's no such thing as a sure thing. But this proposal a a great prospect given the two businesses' community history, a solid base of technology education and a stable, willing work force.