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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
May 16, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Governor Bill Lee visits Knoxville to establish new state nuclear energy advisory council

This follows recent action by the General Assembly approving the governor's request for a $50 million incentives fund to attract nuclear companies to the Volunteer State.

Nuclear energy is a big topic these days in East Tennessee, particularly with activities in and around Oak Ridge ranging from start-ups that are opening operations in the community to plans by the Tennessee Valley Authority to locate a small modular reactor.

On Tuesday, Governor Bill Lee came to the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, home of one of the nation’s premier nuclear engineering programs, to underscore the Volunteer State’s leadership on the nuclear energy front.

With the proverbial stroke of his pen, the Governor issued Executive Order 101 that establishes the 15-member Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council which will include members of the Lee administration, state legislature, Congressional delegation, and key nuclear industry stakeholders. The Executive Order also comes on the heels of a $50 million fund the Governor requested and the General Assembly approved that is designed to incentivize nuclear energy companies to locate in the Volunteer State.

“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,” the Governor noted in a news release issued after the press conference. He added that the goal is “to make Tennessee the number one state for nuclear energy companies to invest and thrive, bringing greater opportunity and quality jobs for Tennesseans.”

In other words, it’s all about economic development, a theme that both Governor Lee and Stuart McWhorter, Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, emphasized in their comments. They noted that it is about jobs that would be created in the nuclear sector, but also about jobs that will come to Tennessee because of the reliable power that can be provided.

The Advisory Council’s role is to recommend the following actions to advance Tennessee’s ability to lead the nation in nuclear energy:

  • Legislative, policy, and budgetary changes to address regulatory, and workforce or education barriers that exist to the creation and expansion of nuclear energy facilities in Tennessee;
  • Funding opportunities for state government, local governments, and the private sector;
  • Storage and waste practices that continue the state’s long history of conserving Tennessee’s natural resources; and
  • Federal actions that Tennessee should pursue with federal partners and agencies.

On Monday, the Governor said he was invited to speak at an event hosted by the Nuclear Energy Institute, a clear indicator of the preeminent position that the Volunteer State enjoys.

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