Skip to main content

Thinking and Rethinking Nuclear Energy in Utah

In St. George Utah:

City staff recommended that the City Council hold off on committing to a project by NuScale Power. Based out of Oregon, NuScale proposes to build compact nuclear reactors that would be housed in a power plant built near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The compact reactors are designed to produce 40-50 megawatts of power.

St. George nestles in the southern part of the state and is one of its fastest growing areas. The town has about 75,000 people, but it is that “fastest growing” aspect that might have motivated interest in small reactors.

Let’s not call the decision to slow walk the commitment an excess of caution, at least initially, just caution.

Though St. George is one of UAMPS biggest utilities, city staff have recommended against committing to any binding agreements, saying they want the city to maintain flexibility over where it gets its power. The cost of being involved could run into the millions of dollars, said Laurie Mangum, the city’s energy services director.

“Not knowing what’s going to happen in the next nine years, do we want to tie ourselves down to that particular resource right now?” City Manager Gary Esplin said. “I guess we’re just having second thoughts about getting involved with the costs …. Do we want to limit our flexibility by committing early?”

UAMPS is the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, which wants to encourage use of small reactors.

This does seem an excess of caution:

Even though the city is looking to step back from a nuclear power option for now, it may get involved down the road as the project develops.

The city will continue to look at the probability of the NuScale Power project, possibly “up to the last minute,” Mangum said. If it looks like a viable option, the city may buy into it.

People do like to plan, after all. All this said, St. George does seem to have the right idea, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to hedge one’s bets, especially with municipal money. Still, we hope this goes NuScale’s way and not at the last minute, either.

Comments

Mitch said…
Whatever the legalese, still sounds like fear to me! Wonder if they'd be so "prudent and cautious" if it was natural gas we were talking about here!

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 America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…