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SD lawmakers briefed on requirements state needs for nuclear power

Brent Duerre

State officials assigned to serve on the legislative Executive Board are presented with Legislative Research Council staff recommendations.

One of those came from an LRC staff attorney who provided information on state nuclear power options.

The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports having 37 agreements with states on nuclear power options with three states having filed letters of intent. South Dakota is on a shorter list of ten states that do not have a nuclear agreement.

Melanie Dumdei is an attorney for the Legislative Research Council. She presented nuclear power as a viable option for the state.

“The most relevant portion to our legislature highlights how a state can adopt nuclear power. Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has that authority and through a process known as becoming an ‘Agreement State’ the NRC, can defer that authority or give that authority to the state,” said Dumdei.   

To become an NRC Agreement state, legislation must be drafted to authorize the governor to pursue Agreement State status. If that bill is approved and signed by the governor, a Letter of Intent would be filed with the NRC.

Rep. Randy Gross is a member of the Executive Board. He voiced concern of costs associated with nuclear power.

“Is that process, when a state initiates, to in essence be practive, is that a costly, expensive time-consuming process? I realize that is relative, but is that something we should look into proactively doing as a state," asked Gross.

Dumdei answered Gross’s question directly.

“I’m not sure what the cost is. I mean, I don’t think the process itself would be costly, to provide that letter and get the process moving. The cost is going to come from establishing the sort of, you know, nuclear framework and regulator mechanisms and safety protocols,” said Dumdei.

She said ultimately, nuclear power is an efficient energy source that is becoming increasingly cost competitive.

In 1966 South Dakota had an atomic power plant in Sioux Falls named Pathfinder. The plant was in service for a year-and-a-half, but never produced energy for the local grid. The project served as a demonstration and research project for nuclear power plants currently in service in neighboring states.

Evan Walton is an SDPB reporter based in Sioux Falls. Evan holds a Master’s in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University and was honorably discharged from the United States Army in 2015, where he served for five years as an infantryman.