Is nuclear an energy option for Oklahoma?

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Last week, a lawmaker called for a study to examine whether a nuclear site is now a feasible option in Oklahoma, as state officials seek ways to diversify energy sources. (Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the day the last effort to build a nuclear power plant in Oklahoma ended. Last week, a lawmaker called for a study to examine whether a nuclear site is now a feasible option in Oklahoma, as state officials seek ways to diversify energy sources.

“There’s a growing movement across the country to get or get back to nuclear,” R-Broken Arrow Sen. Nathan Dahm told members of the Senate Energy Committee as they discussed his plan to Senate Act 1794. “Several states have repealed their moratoriums on new nuclear power plants, so they are looking to expand it.

SB 1794 would create a feasibility study to examine the possibility of nuclear power in Oklahoma. The study is expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, Dahm said. The committee voted to move the bill forward, although lawmakers requested additional comments on the measure before it could be presented to the full Senate for a vote.

Tulsa-based Public Service Co. of Oklahoma announced on February 16, 1982, that it was ending a nearly decade-long effort to build the Black Fox Nuclear Generating Station in Rogers County. Claremore resident Carrie Dickerson and other citizens concerned about environmental impacts fought against the construction of the plant until PSO abandoned the project she had started in 1973. In 2019, PSO sold the land on which the factory was to be built, over 2,000 acres, to the Port Authority of Tulsa-Rogers County, to be turned into an industrial park.

PSO has no immediate plans to pursue another nuclear plant, PSO spokesman Wayne Green said, although the utility is shifting its energy mix from coal to more wind.

“We’re going out of the coal business soon,” Green said. Currently, only about 6% of the utility’s electricity comes from coal. PSO has signed an agreement to decommission its last coal-fired facility by 2026.

Wind energy fills this void and more. PSO added two wind farms to its portfolio last year, and a third should be commissioned by the middle of the year. OSP now generates about as much energy from wind as from natural gas, about 23% each. PSO draws the remainder of its electricity from the Southwest Power Pool grid.

Taking note of the problems Texas power companies faced during last year’s winter weather event, PSO outfitted its wind turbines with weather packages to make them more resilient to extreme weather conditions, Green said.

OG&E generates its electricity from natural gas, wind power, low-sulphur coal and solar power. Last fall, OG&E submitted to regulators its integrated resource plan for the next five years, which includes plans to retire and replace existing generation with a combination of renewable solar power and hydrogen combustion turbines.

“The company will continue to evaluate emerging technology developments for future planning as they become viable options,” said Christi Woodworth, OG&E vice president of corporate communications, brand and marketing. . “Building new production facilities requires engagement with key stakeholders, including state leaders and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, given the large-scale financial investment.”

OG&E has a history of pioneering diversified power generation, including renewables like wind and solar, Woodworth said. In 2015, OG&E became the first utility in Oklahoma to offer a universal solar energy program to its customers, with the construction of its first solar facility at the Mustang Energy Center located in Mustang.

Since then, the utility has completed three additional developments for a total solar power capacity of 22.5 megawatts, enough to power nearly 3,700 homes.

Lawmakers conducted a study after last year’s winter storm to look at ways to ensure Oklahomans don’t face long blackouts and high utility bills.

State Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, served on that committee and presented the Senate Energy Committee with its SB 1410. The bill would prohibit municipalities from relying on a single power source, requiring at least three power generation options in their emergency plans.

While no municipality is entirely dependent on a single energy source yet, Taylor said the measure is intended to prevent such problems from developing in the future.

“As a member of the Winter Storm Energy Investigation Committee, I thought this was a good idea for the consumer,” Taylor said. “It happened in Texas, and we saw how catastrophic that winter storm was there.”

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