Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Northwest Passage to Nuclear Energy

Interesting doings in Washington state:

The bills by Republican Sen. Sharon Brown go to a public hearing before the Senate Environment, Energy & Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday. Four committee members also belong to a House-Senate task force studying whether nuclear power should be expanded in Washington.

Not only are there four members of the committee but three bills under consideration.

One of Brown's bills calls for providing a sales tax exemption for small modular reactors that some Tri-Cities interests hope to eventually build and ship elsewhere. Another of Brown's bills would add nuclear power to the list of alternative power sources that certain utilities are required to use to meet state targets for having "green" energy sources as part of their electrical-generation mix. Brown's third bill would create a nuclear energy education program that would include classroom sessions and science teachers' workshops on teaching nuclear science to eighth through 12th graders.

The tri-cities refers to Kennewick, Pasco and Richland in the southeastern part of the state. The last is the interesting one, as it is closest to Washington’s nuclear facility, the Columbia Generating Station, and I assume Sen. Brown has in mind for the area the kind of nuclear hub that North Carolina has developed. And Brown definitely wants to encourage small reactor development at the Hanford site, also in sight of the tri-cities.

However, the ultimate goal of Tri-City economic leaders is to become a site to assemble small modular reactors for shipment around the world, including to Asia.

“Is Washington going to be a leader or a follower when it comes to supporting emerging technologies?” Brown asked. “We have the resources available to us right here in our state. However, other states are quickly working to develop their assets.”

One of those states is neighboring Oregon.

The task force met twice in Olympia and also traveled to Pasco for a hearing and toured NuScale Power in Corvallis, Ore., this year. NuScale is developing a 50-megawatt nuclear reactor that that could be transported and set up for operation at sites where one or more are needed.

There’s no hint that the idea here is to attract NuScale to Washington; the potential of small reactors, well represented by NuScale, is an attraction in itself, and Brown clearly does not want her state to be out of the running.

I have no idea how Brown’s bills will fare in the Washington legislature – the one about education is certainly intriguing and the other ones seem judicious. Nuclear energy certainly should be part of any green portfolio and encouraging small reactors is smart economic development. They would put Washington in an interesting position by leveraging nuclear energy to the state’s benefit. We can’t wait to see how this goes.

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We know that the Northwest Passage is considerably north of Washington, but it is an irresistible title. Let’s consider it a northwest passage, not the Northwest Passage.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is what the entire West Coast should be doing, establishing some form of energy independence and counting nuclear as part of their renewable portfolios. Perhaps it will take the lights not coming on? (i.e., Vermont Yankee type power bills)

KitemanSA said...

Perhaps the Tri-Cities should entice Flibe Energy to set up a production shop in the area. Getting in on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors early would be a great thing for Washington!