Monday, March 30, 2015

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.

1 comment:

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!