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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee Announces Nuclear Energy Advisory Council

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced appointments to the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council, a move designed to set the Volunteer State up to lead America’s clean energy independence. The council will focus on the state’s role in the future of American energy and drive economic growth for the state. Lee’s Executive Order 101 was created to bring the next generation of reliable, safe, and clean nuclear power to Tennessee.

The announcement came in May as Gov. Lee joined industry leaders in Washington, D.C., at the annual Nuclear Energy Assembly.

Photo Courtesy tn.gov

“Tennessee is ready-made to lead America’s energy independence and drive continued economic growth with safe, clean, and reliable nuclear energy for the future,” Gov. Lee said in a statement. “Today, I’m signing an executive order that will continue our work to make Tennessee the number one state for nuclear energy companies to invest and thrive, bringing greater opportunity and quality jobs for Tennesseans.”

The state, home to the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, has a legacy of nuclear innovation. The Nuclear Energy Advisory Council seeks to ensure continued investment in a “nuclear energy ecosystem” for the future, an investment also designed to spur the economy.

The council will have 15 members, including staff from Lee’s administration, key nuclear industry stakeholders, and members of the Tennessee General Assembly and Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation.

It will focus on four key areas

  1. Legislative and policy changes to address workforce, education, or regulatory barriers to the expansion of nuclear energy
  2. Funding opportunities for state, local, and private companies
  3. Green storage and waste practices that protect natural resources
  4. Federal partnerships

Photo Courtesy Lukáš Lehotský

Members include Patrick Sheehan, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency; the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Don Moul; Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Jeff Smith and the University of Tennessee’s Dr. Wes Hines; and heads of various state utilities and city and county governments.

“Energy independence will be critical to our nation’s future success,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, who is from Oak Ridge, said in a statement. “The development and expansion of clean and efficient nuclear power is the path to that independence. Tennessee is uniquely positioned to contribute mightily to innovation and advancement in the nuclear energy sector. … Another great opportunity for Tennessee to lead the nation.”

Lee also partnered with the state’s General Assembly on a $50 million fund for the 2023–2024 state budget. It offers grants and assistance to nuclear businesses that want to relocate or grow in Tennessee.

Photo Courtesy Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

“If we really want to contribute to the future of America’s environment, we must contribute to the advancement of clean energy,” Lee said in his recent 2023 State of the State Address. “… Tennessee is looking for real solutions through innovation. We have a solution that is cheap, clean, and reliable. No other state in the country comes close to Tennessee’s legacy, resources, and potential to be a leader in nuclear energy.”

“And there is no long-term national strategy that doesn’t include nuclear energy. … I’m proposing $50 million in a Nuclear Fast Track fund to recruit companies to our state that will specifically establish a nuclear development and manufacturing ecosystem built for the future of Tennessee,” he continued. “We cannot not pass up this opportunity. Tennessee can and should be the leader in nuclear energy for America.”

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