INDIANAPOLIS – Nuclear power generation in Indiana got a boost Tuesday when Mike Pence, the GOP candidate for governor, said the time has come for it to be part of the conversation regarding Indiana’s future energy needs.
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful John Gregg’s campaign differed, saying past accidents show the consequences can outweigh the benefits.
Pence also talked of privatizing some activities within state parks, such as additional inns or lodges and other recreational opportunities.
He made his remarks during and after an appearance at an annual energy management conference in Indianapolis.
But it was Pence’s focus on nuclear energy that drew attention. He told reporters he has had some discussions with Indiana utilities about possible modular nuclear plants.
Pence said this new type of technology is not the same magnitude of a full-scale nuclear plant and “may well be an easier sell to Hoosiers.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, small modular reactors are about one-third the size of current nuclear plants and have compact designs that are expected to offer safety, construction and economic benefits. They could be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to operate, reducing capital costs and construction time.
Indiana is one of 19 states with no nuclear power plants.
Pence recalled when the troubled Marble Hill nuclear plant was abandoned in Indiana in the late 1970s and also the meltdown in Japan in March 2011.
“We want to go into this process carefully and thoughtfully, but when you look at much of the industrialized world today, the technology, the safety record of nuclear energy is one that I think Hoosiers ought to be willing to look at,” he said.
“In addition to developing all of our traditional sources of energy and our renewable sources of energy, we ought to look at adding nuclear energy to our portfolio if it’s economically feasible and keeps our energy costs low.”
Daniel Altman, spokesman for the Gregg campaign, pointed to disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima as reminders that nuclear energy can have serious negative consequences.
“John has been talking with Hoosiers for months about how to keep energy costs down for Indiana, while also creating good-paying energy jobs in the state,” he said. “As someone who has worked for two different coal companies, John knows that we have enormous potential not just for coal, but methane, natural gas, biomass and wind energy, and he will work to further develop these industries.”
Pence also talked briefly on the environment during his speech, saying he would investigate more lodges, inns and other recreational amenities at state parks.
To do this, he likely would rely on public-private partnerships with outside developers.
“I want to examine ways without unnecessarily burdening taxpayers,” he said, seeming to leave open the possibility of privatizing parks in general.
Campaign staffers later said he does not want to go that far – only focusing on lodges and possible new activities within the parks.
Daniels has privatized the reservation system for inns and campgrounds, for instance, but state employees continue to run the properties.
The Gregg campaign said Hoosiers have told him on the campaign trail they are concerned with the state parks being privatized.
“John would very carefully review any potential plan that would change additional portions of them and evaluate any changes on a case-by-case basis,” Altman said.