Skip to main content

Utah – the Place for Nuclear Energy?

UtahsongUtah’s Governor Gary Herbert talked about the importance of nuclear energy during his State of the State address earlier this year – then the accident at Fukushima happened – then -

“The lessons we learn from that horrific situation [in Japan] must not be lost as we discuss any possible future nuclear power generation here,” he said during the release of his 10-year energy plan in March. “The disasters in Japan, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island will not preempt the debate of nuclear power — but they certainly will influence it.”

That seems sensible enough. A little more surprising:

While noncommittal about the proposed Utah project, Herbert insists that nuclear power is “safer than ever” and still up for discussion in his state.

Or maybe not so surprising:

Approximately 82 percent of the electricity produced in Utah in 2008 was from coal-fired generation, with six plants active statewide, according to the Utah Geological Survey. Natural gas accounted for the second-largest proportion at 15.6 percent. Hydroelectric provided 1.4 percent, while geothermal and petroleum each comprise less than 1 percent of net generation of electricity in Utah.

So, in Utah, the renewables and nuclear energy stand on the same patch, but at least this gives the state a lot of options going forward.

The first article linked above mentions a company called Blue Castle Holdings that wants to build the first nuclear facility in the state. Blue Castle has hired former NRC Chairman Nils Diaz to help out, so its has potent assistance in the public relations game.

We wish Blue Castle good fortune. Herbert’s support for the atom is more subdued than before but still present – which is politic - and Utah could do with broadening its electricity portfolio. Utah just might be the place.

---

CNET takes a look at the MIT Finance Forum and is surprised to find that nuclear energy still has the nerve to shove its nose through the door. Why?

"Our investors have a very long time horizon and the reason they supported it is the long-term societal implications and the potentially significant returns from that (so) we haven't seen any wavering of support," said Tyler Ellis, a project manager at TerraPower.

So that’s why there’s been no wavering of support. Writer Martin LaMonica focuses on small reactors, probably because CNET covers a lot of tech news and Microsoft’s Bill Gates is an investor in TerraPower. So it all fits together.

LaMonica provides a nice overview of the benefits of small reactors. I’ve always found some of the offered reasons a little thin:

Although none has actually been built, modular plants have a slight advantage in terms of cost: simply, financiers don't need to raise as much money, said Bob Percopo, a project finance expert who works at the energy division of AIG. "On balance, small modular reactors probably have a leg up on the financing side," he said.

In addition to being quicker to build, the smaller plants require fewer operators, which lowers the operations costs, [NuScale Power CEO Paul] Lorenzini said.

True statements all – well, the one about financing is unknown at this point. But I wonder if small reactors will be sold ultimately as an alternative to their full size peers or as supplements used for different purposes.

That isn’t completely clear yet, but I do think the better argument isn’t their cost effectiveness – though that’s a selling point – but that they can be used in all kinds of situations where full scale plants might be too ambitious – providing power to military bases when they’re cut off from the grid, providing process heat for industrial processes, etc.

After all, the flux capacitor ran a car, so if you’ve got a different form factor, devise a different use case (and admittedly, most of the small reactor companies have done this – LaMonica just didn’t pick up on it.)

Visit NuScale here and TerraPower here for more on what they can do.

From the Utah state song, Utah – This Is the Place:

Utah! People working together; Utah! What a great place to be; Blessed from Heaven above; It's the land that we love; This is the place!

Comments

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 Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…