Skip to main content

Walking Toward Nuclear on Tip-Toe

cgs1 Energy Northwest is giving nuclear energy a look-see.

In a May 27 letter obtained by The Associated Press, the [Energy Northwest] consortium asked each of its 25 member public utilities and municipalities to pitch in $25,000 for further research into building one or more small reactors. Those who pay would have first rights to any power produced if a plant is built.

Well, that’s pretty small-d democratic. And Energy Northwest, which had a rough ride with nuclear energy in the 80s – the article goes into all that - is indeed proceeding this time most carefully:

Energy Northwest has spent the past year researching its nuclear options, including a 1,600-megawatt plant that would power more than 1 million homes, before deciding to gauge interest in a small project where 40-megawatt reactors can be added as needed.

Hmm, perhaps too carefully. Although the article doesn’t say it, it looks as though the idea may be to use the smaller plants to backstop their renewable portfolio (the article says wind, solar and biomass, but we think solar is really unlikely in raintown. These are hydro people, with the dams to prove it.)

Read the whole article – there’s a lot of detail in it – but we would note as a final point that the nuclear plant that did come out of the 80s debacle – The Columbia Generating Station – has hummed along quite nicely for the last 25 years. We can’t blame Energy Northwest for walking on tip-toe, because at least they’re walking in the right direction.

The Columbia Generating Station. Not terrible as industrial structures go.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Energy Northwest is not in Seattle! It is located in Eastern Washington near the Hanford Site. With 6-7 inches of rain per year and 300+ sunny days - I believe solar is also on their radar.

But this is certainy an interesting development - it is one of the few areas where the community would support new nuclear readily - though the state interests on the other side of the mountains may oppose.
Anonymous said…
This is very clearly an effort to look at deploying NuScale reactors.

See:

http://www.nuscalepower.com/

Good for Energy Northwest.
Rod Adams said…
I have not yet read the linked article, but have an immediate guess that the folks at Energy Northwest have been talking to their neighbors from NuScale, which is located in Corvallis, OR, the same town as Oregon State University.

The description of a 40 MWe plant module where additional modules can be added as desired fits right in with NuScale's concept of modular light water reactors using natural circulation coolant flow.

Now I need to go read the linked article to confirm my guess.
m said…
People may find the slides from a seminar given by Dr Reyes of Nuscale at MIT of interest.

http://mit.edu/ans/www/documents/seminar/S09/reyes_slides.pdf

Regards,
Mike V
perdajz said…
Reyes presentation is odd. It seems to equate financial risk with severe accident risk, which is not the case. The likelihood of any severe accident is so fantastically low that it means almost nothing from a financial standpoint. In other words, nuclear power is plenty safe already. Reducing core damage frequency from 1E-7 to 1E-9 per year does not accomplish much to get a plant built.

The main financial risks are regulatory and political. Reyes never addresses that. Why would it be easier to build many 40 MW plants than it would be to build one 1000 MW plants? In many respects, the political and regulatory risks are independent of plant size. Nuclear power opponents and their lawyers don't care if the plant is 40 MW or 1000 MW; if it has fission products, it must be delayed and regulated out of existence, in their eyes.

Yeah, I get it: it is easier to build small ones and stack them up. But in the perserve economics and politics of nuclear power, that may or may not hold true. I don't see anything in Reyes presentation to address that, even though there's nothing I like better than doing PRA.

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…