Connecticut allows exemption for small nuclear reactors

House Bill 5202, signed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont on May 24, 2022, amends the state’s nuclear power facility construction moratorium to allow for the construction of small modular reactors at the Millstone plant.

Nuclear power currently represents about 40% of Connecticut’s energy generation and over 95% of its clean energy generation. All of this electricity is generated by the two reactors in operation at the Millstone Nuclear Power Station, the only nuclear plant currently operating in the state.

Proposed by the Connecticut Energy and Technology Committee, the bill would give the owner of Millstone, Dominion Energy, the ability to utilize small modular reactors which it says “could play a critical role in achieving deep decarbonization in the decades to come.”

HB 5202 amends Connecticut General Statute 22a-136 which prohibits the construction of a new nuclear power facility until the U.S. government has approved a means for “the disposal of high level nuclear waste.” Originally passed in 1979 due to concerns about long term storage of spent nuclear fuel, lawmakers are now willing to make an exception for SMRs in order to help meet Governor Lamont’s plan to reach zero carbon emissions from power plants by 2040.

This measure came shortly after Indiana passed its own Senate Bill 271, which directed the state’s energy commission to begin building a framework for future use of SMRs. These bills could indicate a trend of states amending their nuclear energy laws to accommodate the construction of smaller reactors, which are commonly cited as being safer and producing less waste than their larger counterparts.

In the United States, nuclear power provides almost 20% of the electricity used. There are more than 500,000 people in the United States working in the nuclear energy industry, with salaries that are 50% higher, on average, than other utility jobs. If SMRs continue to garner support in state legislatures, the number of these high-paying, clean-energy jobs could increase significantly.