Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Support Grows for Small Reactor Partnership in Missouri

imageAmeren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric Co. last week revealed a new partnership to compete for federal funds to develop and license a small reactor at the Callaway nuclear plant site in Missouri. The joint collaboration has the potential to open the doors for nuclear energy to play a more prominent role in the Midwestern state’s energy portfolio—a move that is being met with increasing enthusiasm by local leaders.

Given the previous challenges to new nuclear plant development in the state, it is exciting to see several notable people and institutions come forward to voice their support. Below is a sampling of some of the positive coverage we have come across so far.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on the day of the announcement:

Designing, developing and commercializing next-generation nuclear technology will create good jobs for Missourians, expand our global exports, and ensure that Missouri has affordable, abundant, safe and reliable power for generations to come.  Missouri offers Westinghouse an outstanding nuclear operator and workforce, world-class research universities, a strong foothold in the nuclear industry, and a central location to develop a worldwide manufacturing base. As Governor, I'm fully committed to working with Westinghouse, Ameren Missouri and all our electric energy providers to take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.
The Joplin (Mo.) Globe in an editorial today:
We believe that spurring safe, economical, close to load power generation, while at the same time creating tens of thousands of good paying, stable jobs is a far better use of taxpayer funds than throwing hundreds of millions at politically connected Solyndras.
We applaud Nixon, Westinghouse, Ameren and the remaining utilities — including Joplin’s own Empire District — for joining forces on a practical energy plan for all Missourians.
The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune in an editorial posted yesterday:
Westinghouse and Ameren seem to be the best applicants in the United States for this new smaller unit approach, which has political as well as scientific advantages. Chances are good the grants will come through and the demonstration project at Callaway will be built, but it will take time — as long as 10 years before power will be generated. As long as progress is made, all hands should stay hitched to the wagon. Callaway II can provide a host of good jobs during construction and forever after as clean power is generated.
The Jefferson City (Mo.) News in a positive editorial yesterday:
If all goes right, it still might take until 2022 before any possible new reactors would come online in Missouri. But the potential for energy, jobs and development is impossible to ignore.
There's no such thing as a sure thing. But this proposal is a great prospect given the two businesses' community history, a solid base of technology education, and a stable, willing work force.
The same newspaper also featured an article on how the partnership will benefit the University of Missouri’s Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute, which almost dismantled earlier this year due to a decision by the graduate school’s dean.
Sudarshan Loyalka, a curators' professor of nuclear engineering, said Ameren and Westinghouse's partnership should emphasize the need to strengthen NSEI rather than trying to start a completely new program.
"We do have a strong nuclear engineering program, and the program should be strengthened further with this opportunity," he said.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said after the announcement that he was still learning about the university's role. "We will be involved in the very beginning in the research and educational aspects of this," he said.
Local lawmakers, including State Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) and State Rep. Mary Still (D-Columbia), agreed that the university will play a major support role in the project and has the potential to expand its research capabilities and boost its national profile in the area of nuclear science. To this point, Sen. Schaefer said:
This could make them the No. 1 research entity in the world based on their role in designing and training on these units.
While many state lawmakers, labor unions, local chambers of commerce, and others have come forward to show their support, there are still others that are skeptical of the project, demonstrating the need for continued dialogue and education on project’s benefits. However, given that members of both sides of the political aisle and groups who traditionally oppose each other were able to stand united during last' week’s announcement, it shows promise that Missourians are not ready to close the door on nuclear energy.

Photo: Image of the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor design. To learn more about the reactor, see Westinghouse’s website.

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