Lawmaker supports nuclear energy

As state lawmakers debate how to balance the development of natural gas and cleaner renewable energy resources, one Eastern Plains leader wants to steer the conversation toward nuclear power.

In an effort to foster the nuclear debate, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, said he plans to run legislation later this year to create a nuclear energy commission to explore how feasible it would be to jump-start nuclear development.

“I think it’s time, with all the talk of energy independence and high energy prices, that we have a conversation about nuclear power,” Gardner said.

He said the commission would examine state and federal regulations and explore what reform would be necessary to start nuclear development.

Gardner said the commission then would work with Colorado’s counties to locate sites for possible nuclear power plants.

“It’s a way to create an environmentally friendly energy source that we can do right now,” Gardner said.

Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, said Gardner’s approach is “a sensible first step” in exploring the possibility of nuclear power in Colorado.

“I think the conversation needs to be had, and it should start in seeking out communities that might want nuclear generation in their proximity. … I think it makes good sense to do a statewide vetting process and see who is eager to get on board,” Penry said.

Environmental advocates, however, lambasted Gardner’s bill as unnecessary in light of Colorado’s abundant, cheap, renewable-energy sources.

“The cost of nuclear power is substantially higher than solar or wind right now,” said Keith Hay, energy advocate for Environment Colorado.

Hay said the uranium mining required to produce nuclear energy would have dire effects on Colorado’s environment.

Even if Gardner’s bill weathers its critics, it remains unclear whether the governor will give Gardner’s legislation a glowing review.

During a Monday stop in Grand Junction, Gov. Bill Ritter said he thinks nuclear energy should be a part of Colorado’s and the nation’s energy future.

“It has to be a part of it,” Ritter said. “It’s carbon-free.”

Ritter added, however, he has concerns about what to do with spent nuclear fuel.

Gardner said he expects to introduce his bill in early February.


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