Scutari: New Jersey should look at small modular nuclear options for energy

Don’t be confused, it wasn’t a policy speech — and it certainly wasn’t part of the language of a bill in the state Senate. But Senate President Nick Scutari did recently suggest something that more and more people are talking about: Increasing the use of nuclear energy to fill the future energy needs of the state.

Scutari (D-Clark), speaking to NJ Spotlight News’ David Cruz for a segment on “Reporters Roundtable,” said small modular reactors — which are much smaller than the traditional nuclear reactors — are something the state should consider.

Scutari said it’s part of a holistic approach on energy that he always has pushed for, one that makes more sense during a period in which offshore wind is looking like a less-viable solution.

“I don’t think wind is going to solve all our problems in terms of energy needs,” he said. “You can’t go to full electrification if you don’t really have the electricity or the grid to support that. So, I think we’ve got to make substantial changes in the grid and where we get our energy from.”

Sen. Bob Smith. (File photo)

Scutari referenced efforts from Sen. Bob Smith (D-Piscataway), who is chair of the Environment and Energy Committee.

“I know Sen. Smith has been working on some small-batch nuclear options,” he said. “And I think that’s something that has been shown to produce a lot of energy more consistently than when the wind blows.”

Speaking of wind, Scutari said he feels the state should seek a potential $300 million from Ørsted, despite the fact the company recently announced it is pulling out of its two New Jersey projects. He said he knows it won’t be easy — and that it likely will end up in court.

“They made a deal on the promise of what we were going to do in terms of tax abatements for them — none of that was conditioned on them going forward on the project,” he said. “Now that they’re not going to go forward with it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have to pay for what we did for them to the taxpayers.”

Speaking of deals, Scutari was asked if he felt the Legislature was ready to offer greater incentives to future projects. A third solicitation for offshore wind currently is being reviewed by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“I don’t know if I’m inclined to do that or not,” he said.