Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, left, holds up a copy of Senate Bill 177, easing regulations for nuclear microreactors, with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter at the first Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Screenshot)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, left, holds up a copy of Senate Bill 177, easing regulations for nuclear microreactors, with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter at the first Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. (Screenshot)

Dunleavy signs microreactor bill at sustainable energy conference

In three-day event, Gov promotes sustainable energy in Alaska

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a bill Tuesday making it easier to obtain permits for nuclear microreactors in Alaska as the state looks to boost its energy production, particularly in rural areas.

Dunleavy signed Senate Bill 177 — a bill his office introduced to the Alaska State Legislature — at the first-ever Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference held in Anchorage. Previously, nuclear reactors could only be permitted on land specifically designated by the Legislature, but with the signing of SB177, the permitting process is now controlled by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“In short, this bill will smooth the regulatory process,” Dunleavy told reporters at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center where the conference was being held.

“We must pursue all means to reduce reliance on volatile energy sources,” Dunleavy said, emphasizing the word “all.”

Dunleavy announced the sustainable energy conference in February — at the same time he introduced three bills aimed at promoting renewable energy — touting Alaska as a place with abundant access to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power. Of the three bills Dunleavy introduced, only SB177 was passed by lawmakers. The other two bills, one to establish a so-called “green bank,” or renewable energy investment fund and a bill requiring 80% of the electricity on Alaska’s Railbelt to come from renewable sources, both died in committee.

[They have the meals, they need the wheels]

Joining Dunleavy, a Republican, at the news conference was former Colorado Gov. Dave Ritter, a Democrat and director for the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. Ritter was once of the many prominent speakers to address the conference Tuesday, other speakers included former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former CIA director and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, also a Republican, who both addressed the conference virtually. Louisana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, joined the conference virtually for a discussion with Ritter and Dunleavy.

Other keynote speakers at the conference are Ray Leonard, CEO of Linden Energy Holdings; Bernie Karl, president of Ounalashka Corp./Chena Power, LLC and author Tony Seba.

In their remarks, both Dunleavy and Ritter emphasized nuclear power as a safe and proven energy source. Ritter said SB177 was a policy pathway that will help Alaskan communities reach net-zero carbon emissions.

“States are where the action is,” Ritter said. “States are where the leaders are, and Governor Dunleavy you’re among them.”

The conference will continue all day Wednesday and Thursday, and feature talks regarding the policies and economics of renewable energy. Alaska’s U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, will give remarks Wednesday and Thursday respectively and Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson will also address the conference.

According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Alaska currently has no operating nuclear power reactors or facilities undergoing decommissioning, but there are two microreactor projects in the works. Eielson Air Force Base hopes to have a nuclear micro-reactor operating by the end of 2027, according to the U.S. Air Force, and in February the Copper River Electric Association commissioned a feasibility study for a microreactor with the Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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