Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scaling Up by Scaling Down in Washington

Shorebirds in Flight at Grays Harbor NWR Energy Northwest has a taker.

[T]he Grays Harbor Public Utility District is considering pitching in $25,000 to get in on the ground floor of a new statewide effort to build five to eight small-scale nuclear power plants, according to The Daily World of Aberdeen.  The push is being spearheaded by Energy Northwest, a group of 22 public utility districts and five municipalities.

We first talked about Energy Northwest’s movement toward nuclear, and its interest in small units, on June 3. At that time, this was the news:

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.

So now, The Gray Harbor Public Utility District is in. Good. 26 more to go. (We looked around to see if any other district has thrown in – or refused to – we don’t thnk so – but if you know different, do let us know.)


The story, by Stephen Heiser of Nuclear Street, is quite interesting. Not wanting to roll back over what’s happened so far, he speculates what type of small reactor Energy Northwest might look at:

TerraPower, a start-up created inside Intellectual Ventures, the incubator founded by former Microsoft chief scientist Nathan Myhrvold, is trying to build small scale nuclear reactor that runs on depleted uranium, the waste product of current nuclear plants. Babcock & Wilcox, which has built nuclear reactors for decades, has also entered the market for micro nukes with M-Power.

Hyperion's proposed reactor has about half of the power capacity, but is about the size of a common hot tub. NuScale's power plant would need to be refueled every two years, while Hyperion says it would need refueling every five years. TerraPower wants to bury its reactor for 30 to 60 years without bothering it.

Sense some innovation and initiative in the nuclear energy business? Hot tubs and micro nukes – we like it.

Mudflats at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. The white specks are birds appropriately refuged there.

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