A bill that would lift the moratorium on nuclear power plants in Kentucky passed a legislative committee Tuesday and awaits final passage by the state House of Representatives.

The legislation would change a state law that requires plants to have a way to permanently dispose of nuclear waste, allowing facilities to temporarily store the waste on site.

Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah and the bill’s sponsor, said nuclear power would complement the state’s use of energy derived from coal.

“It is crucial that we have a balanced portfolio in our state to allow the purchase of inexpensive energy,” Caroll said. “To provide a better quality of life for our people and to help us recruit business and industry into our state.”

State lawmakers from Paducah have long tried to lift the moratorium, which was first put in place in the 1980s. The city is home to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants and weapons.

Carroll said lifting the moratorium could help bring jobs that have been lost at the plant, though he said it would be years before a nuclear project could move forward in the area.

“We believe that the market will dictate when it’s time to build a nuclear power facility in the state of Kentucky,” he said.

A representative from the Tennessee Valley Authority said that construction of a nuclear power plant could employ 3,500 people and a plant would employ between 400 and 700 people once it opened.

The Tennessee Valley Authority recently brought the country’s first nuclear power plant online since 1996 in Southeastern Tennessee.

Tom FitzGerald, director of the Kentucky Resources Council, called nuclear power a “Faustian bargain”

“We get the cheap energy and we saddle future generations for a millennia with the responsibility to be mature enough to properly manage the waste that we’re generating,” FitzGerald said.

The bill has already passed the state Senate and is awaiting a hearing in the full House of Representatives.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives.