KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Governor Bill Lee wants Tennessee to be a leader in nuclear energy, holding a news conference at the University of Tennessee‘s Knoxville campus, where he signed a new executive order to create the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council.

The governor’s announcement, held at the University of Tennessee Zeanah Engineering Complex, had leaders including Lt. Governor Randy McNally, City of Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Tennessee Valley Authority executive vice president and chief operating officer Don Moul in attendance.

“Tennessee has been leading the nation in nuclear energy for many decades,” Lee said. “We have a long history in this state, beginning with The Manhattan Project, through today.”

After speaking, the governor signed Executive Order 101 to create the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council.

A news release from the governor’s office states that the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council will consist of 15 members, including members of the Lee administration, the Tennessee General Assembly, Tennessee’s Congressional Delegation and key nuclear industry stakeholders. 

The advisory council will recommend the following actions to advance Tennessee’s ability to lead the nation in nuclear energy:

  • Legislative, policy and budgetary changes to address regulatory, workforce or education barriers that exist to the creation and expansion of nuclear energy facilities in Tennessee
  • Funding opportunities for state government, local governments and the private sector
  • Storage and waste practices that continue the state’s long history of conserving Tennessee’s natural resources
  • Federal actions that Tennessee should pursue with federal partners and agencies

Nuclear energy in East Tennessee has been at the forefront of conversations amongst leaders since the Tennessee Valley Authority announced in March a partnership with other energy companies for bringing a first-of-its-kind small modular nuclear reactor or SMR at the TVA’s Clinch River Nuclear Site.

Gov. Lee had also visited the Clinch River Nuclear Site in March, referring to it as the “future of energy in America.”

The Department of Energy states that advanced SMRs offer advantages, such as small physical footprints, reduced capital investment and the ability to be sited in locations not possible for larger nuclear plants.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.