Should nuclear energy be consider renewable?
The New Mexico House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee split on the issue Wednesday, tabling for now a bill that would allowed nuclear energy to be included in the renewable energy portfolio standards required for investor-owned utilities and rural electric co-ops in the state.
The New Mexico Energy Policy and Implementation Plan, released in 2015 by Gov. Susana Martinez and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Committee Secretary David Martin, calls for the development of small modular reactors to supplement New Mexico’s energy production.
“Many of the state’s high-income communities and highly educated residents have direct ties to the nuclear industry. Nuclear power generation, however, does not yet exist in New Mexico,” the plan noted.
SMRs generate from 185 to 385 megawatts of nuclear power, are compact in design and have minimal surface impact, the plan said. They are fabricated at a factory and shipped to the point of use, and multiple units can be pieced together to create the desired load size. They are less expensive, use less water and are safer that traditional nuclear plants, the plan argues.
The Office of Nuclear Energy states, “SMRs will play an important role in addressing the energy security, economic and climate goals of the U.S. if they can be commercially deployed within the next decade.”
To spur production, the state plan suggests including nuclear energy among the renewable standards: “One way to facilitate SMR development is to include nuclear energy as part of a ‘Low-Carbon Portfolio Standard,’ which would follow the state’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Such an approach would provide an additional pathway for the state to meet federal carbon dioxide emissions mandates,” the state energy plan states.
House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would amend the state’s Renewable Energy Act to include nuclear energy.
“They are ideal for smaller markets where you can’t really justify building a full scale nuclear facility,” Brown told the Carlsbad Current-Argus.
The tie vote Thursday will leave the bill stalled in committee until further action is taken.
Ben Shelton, legislative director for Conservation Voters New Mexico, said he was pleased to see the legislation stall.
“Proposing to classify nuclear as renewable energy — as Gov. Martinez did her in energy plan — disrespects the sacrifice indigenous communities in western New Mexico have already made and continue to make with their health from the impacts of uranium mining,” he said. “In addition, adding nuclear energy to the Renewable Energy Portfolio standard neutralizes its job creating potential because of nuclear assets already held by New Mexico’s two largest electric utilities — something our leaders should not consider a possibility.”