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By Phil Drake, Helena Independent Record

NGE3_0005 NuScale Reactor Building Cross-section

The merits and pitfalls of pursing nuclear power in Montana were recently debated by experts on both sides of the spectrum, with some telling a legislative committee it is too costly and renewable energy should be pursued instead and others saying it could be key in decarbonization efforts and provide high wages.

During the legislative interval, the Montana Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee is looking at the use of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Montana through Senate Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena. SJ-3 says the expected closure of Colstrip’s coal-fired power plants will result in negative impacts on the community and coal-fired boilers could be replaced by an SMR that would provide clean energy and good-paying jobs.

The May 20 meeting by the committee was a hearing and no recommendations were made. The committee is to complete a study by Sept. 15, to be reviewed in the 2023 legislative session.

At this time, no one is committing to building a nuclear power plant in Montana. None of the Colstrip owners, who represent 85% of Colstrip capacity, and all of the transmission capacity, have plans for nuclear power in Montana.

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