Virginia House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County.

The House speakers in Virginia and West Virginia announced today they are working together to bring advanced nuclear-powered energy sources – including small, modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) – to the rural and economically challenged regions of their states.

Nine days after Virginia’s governor announced he wants to put an SMR in Southwest Virginia, Virginia Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah County, and West Virginia Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said in a joint news release they want to ensure their respective states become national leaders in the next wave of nuclear power.

This energy technology would provide clean, reliable and affordable power while creating jobs, diversifying the economy and offering educational opportunities, the release states.

“Virginia has been the beneficiary of nuclear power for many years,” Gilbert said in the release. “Nothing works harder, longer, safer or more reliably than a nuclear power plant. Small nuclear reactors are the next wave of energy technology, and Virginia should be an East Coast hub for its development and deployment. It’s important that rural and economically challenged areas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia as a whole, benefit from the innovation, jobs and investment small modular nuclear technology will bring to the electric grid.”

Hanshaw said SMRs can be built on old coal mine sites.

“I believe small modular nuclear reactors and technology are the wave of the clean energy future,” he said in the release. “These units can be built on old coal sites and is one way to bring jobs back to our coal dependent communities. Imagine how we could transform West Virginia for the better with high paying jobs, a better skilled workforce, additional tax revenue for localities in need of better schools and roads.”

The release notes that West Virginia recently repealed its ban on the development of nuclear energy sources.

Recent federal legislation calls for a “massive infusion” of federal money through tax credits, grants and other funds for “clean energy investment to include SMRs in rural areas and areas around coal mine sites,” according to the release.

Currently, Gilbert and Hanshaw are developing a legislative framework to make their states leaders in nuclear reactors and SMRs through incentives to promote their development, construction and operation, as well as strengthen educational opportunities, the release states.

On Oct. 3, Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced his energy plan, which emphasizes innovation in energy sources and technology. He said he wants to deploy an SMR in Southwest Virginia within 10 years, but he did not say where.

Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, said it would most likely be on a former coal mine site in the coalfield counties of Lee, Wise, Dickenson Buchanan, Russell or Tazewell.

Susan Cameron is a reporter for Cardinal News. She has been a newspaper journalist in Southwest Virginia...