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Bill on small nuclear reactors passes state House, some lawmakers question size limits

A bill to accommodate a slightly larger small modular nuclear reactor by Rolls Royce passed the Indiana House on Monday.

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. Senate Bill 176 would up the megawatt capacity limit from 350 megawatts to what Rolls Royce’s is expected to be — 470 megawatts.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, anything above 300 megawatts but below 700 megawatts would actually be considered a “medium” nuclear reactor. But the federal government doesn’t have a strict definition.

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.

READ MORE: Bill changes small nuclear reactor law to accommodate Rolls Royce technology

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In a House committee hearing on the bill, Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) said he has concerns about having ratepayers pay for these projects before they're up and running.

“We’re inching our way closer to the size of more traditional nuke reactors that have been really problematic for ratepayers with cost overruns and delays and it’s just not been a good scenario at all," he said.

The bill passed 70 to 21. It now moves on to the state Senate to consider changes made to the bill.

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

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