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Bill changes small nuclear reactor law to accommodate Rolls Royce technology

British engine maker Rolls Royce is working to develop a nuclear reactor that’s larger than what Indiana state law allows. Lawmakers are working to change the law to accommodate the company — even though it could be a decade before the reactor is ready for launch.

Last year, Indiana passed a law instructing a state utility commission to lay the groundwork and offer incentives for small modular nuclear reactors or SMRs. The new bill, SB 176, would up the megawatt capacity limit from 350 megawatts to what Rolls Royce’s is expected to be — 470 megawatts.

Andrew Baker is with Rolls Royce in Indiana — which employs about 4,000 people in Indianapolis.

“It can drive opportunity for potential further investments, supply chain opportunities, and job creation opportunities here in the great state of Indiana," he said.

READ MORE: Bill paves the way for small nuclear reactors. But are they a financial and safety risk?

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Proponents of SMRs say they’re cheaper and safer than reactors currently operating today.

But there are a lot of unknowns about SMRs. None of them have been built in the U.S. and many proposed projects are already over budget — some by billions of dollars. The Union of Concerned Scientists and environmental groups also question the safety of the plants and their waste.

The bill passed the state Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at  rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Copyright 2023 IPB News

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.