Skip to main content

The U.S. Energy Department Should Consider Washington State for Small Reactors, Lawmakers Say

SmallReactor_gregoire_tricityheraldNine U.S. congressional leaders from Washington state penned a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu this week to urge the federal agency to consider the state as a possible location for small nuclear reactors. The letter, signed by both of the state’s U.S. senators and seven U.S. representatives, comes only weeks after Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) submitted a similar letter to the energy secretary, further signaling that the state’s lawmakers are serious about wanting a stake in the upcoming public-private partnership to develop up to two small reactors in this country.
The lawmakers said in the letter that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site, a facility used mainly during World War II to create plutonium for America’s defense program, could make a perfect location to develop a small reactor since it could boost the environmental cleanup efforts at the site and create jobs. The Tri-City Herald quotes from the letter:
A small modular reactor in the Tri-Cities could help offset the loss of jobs as Hanford environmental cleanup progresses, according to the letter from the congressional delegation.
"Under current regulations, economic development consideration should be given to weapons complex communities experiencing a downturn in federal employment," the letter said.
Other local leaders have said that a 70-megawatt small reactor could be used to supply the Hanford site’s vitrification plant, a waste treatment facility that converts nuclear waste products into a glass or a glassy substance so that it can be safely stored in a repository. A 30-megawatt small reactor could also be used to help power DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, located in Richland, Wash.
The congressional leaders in the letter also emphasized that the Tri-Cities is home to the Pacific Northwest’s only nuclear energy facility, the Columbia Generating Station, which originally had planned for two more full-scale nuclear reactors to be located at the site. The Tri-City Herald reports:
The infrastructure developed for those reactors could be used for the construction of new small modular reactors, the letter said.
--
"The site is leased land located squarely within DOE's Hanford Site, which would also prove of benefit to the department in moving this new technology forward," the letter said.
Not only does the Evergreen state have a few locations that could benefit from small reactors, but developing the technology in the state could bring opportunities for U.S. exports, a key point that the governor made in her letter a few weeks ago.
"Small modular reactors, once developed, become a very exportable product that can be of great benefit to China, Korea, Japan and to developing countries around the world," she said. "Hanford and the Tri-Cities could be a keystone to such manufacturing with direct access to ocean-going barges, major interstate highways and railroads."
The Pacific Northwest state has a supportive community, a knowledgeable work force and suitable sites already vetted for nuclear production, said the Tri-City Herald in an editorial yesterday. Given the many benefits this new technology could bring to the United States, DOE should work swiftly and with a sense of urgency over the next few months in making its decision. The editorial continues:
Nothing else on the horizon has the potential to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere by the extent that the scientific community says is needed to halt global warming -- or to meet the world's growing demand for energy.
--
It's crucial to put any modular reactor on the best possible path for success.
The letter submitted this week to Secretary Chu was signed by members of both political parties, including: Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell; Republican Reps. Doc Hastings, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Dave Reichert, and Jaime Herrera Beutler; and Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks, Adam Smith and Rick Larsen.
To read more in small reactor news, see my blog post from earlier this week that highlights a couple of other states that have come forward in announcing their interest in developing this new technology.
Photo: Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire speaks at the Columbia Generating Station in celebration of the plant’s recently renewed license extension to operate until 2043. (Photo credits: Richard Dickin at the Tri-City Herald.)


---
June 25, 2012 update: Full text from the letter is below.




Comments

Anonymous said…
There is a more detailed report about these efforts, as well as similar activities, in South Carolina and Missouri, at Cool Hand Nuke online now
http://theorderoftheironphoenix.com/wp/the-disadvantages-of-using-nuclear-technology/
This really truly reminds me of why we shouldn't build atomic power plants in the nation's capitol.

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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 …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…