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NuScam’s Utah small nuclear reactor project in doubt – needs $billions of tax-payer support

Want to buy into a nuclear power project? This Utah group would like to talk.

UAMPS is still looking at small reactors in Idaho, but cost estimates are climbing and they need more partners.

After seven years, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is still pursuing a series of small nuclear reactors at the Idaho National Laboratory as their clean-power solution.

And, after seven years, they still need more company.

UAMPS, which has 50 members that coordinate on buying and delivering electricity, will soon be updating the 27 entities that have opted into the “Carbon-Free Power Project,” and the price is going up.

The CFPP, a partnership between UAMPS and NuScale Power, an Oregon company developing small nuclear reactors, had given the members an earlier estimate of about $58 per megawatt-hour for power from the project, which was well above what they’re currently paying for power. And now it’s looking closer to be in the $80 to $100 per megawatt-hour by the time it would come online in 2029.

Meanwhile, the UAMPS members who have committed to the project would only take about a quarter of the CFPP’s planned 462-megawatt capacity. UAMPS’ incoming CEO Mason Baker acknowledges that isn’t enough…………..

Baker said they are looking for partners both inside and outside UAMPS. There were originally 36 interested members, but concerns over costs and risks were enough for Logan, Bountiful and others to withdraw in 2020…………………………………………

Is it a too-risky business?

Both Laurie Mangum, energy services director for St. George City. and Dennis Bott, mayor of Brigham City said they would like to see more financial participation from the federal government to lower the risk. The Department of Energy has committed $1.4 billion to the project. “I’d like to see them double or triple that,” Bott said.

UAMPS spokesman LaVarr Webb said completion of the latest cost estimates will trigger an “off-ramp” opportunity for the 27 participants. And if the price estimate exceeds a certain level, UAMPS will have the option to walk away with most of its costs recouped. If they do proceed, UAMPS will issue bonds to pay for the project, and power ratepayers in those cities will pay back the bonds through their monthly bills……………………….

The environmental watchdog group HEAL Utah has opposed the project since its inception, and Executive Director Lexi Tuddenham said CFPP can’t gain enough participants because of the open-ended financial risk of nuclear energy. She pointed to nuclear projects in South Carolina and Georgia that have seen large cost overruns.

“Baseload is important, but nuclear is certainly not the only way to meet that need — in addition to demand-side management, efficiency upgrades, and smart grids,” she said. “Battery storage technology of many types is at a stage where it can provide the reliable and dispatchable energy needed to pair with intermittent sources like wind and solar. In fact it is better and far more efficient at load-following than nuclear, which becomes even less cost effective when it is switched on and off.”………………………………

Still, what about nuclear waste?

From NuScale’s standpoint, the project is still full-speed ahead.

“We have issued the long-lead material specifications for the upper reactor pressure vessel, and the UAMPS project remains on track to start delivering safe and reliable carbon-free energy by the end of this decade,” said Diane Hughes, Vice President of NuScale’s Marketing and Communications. She said UAMPS’ license application is on schedule to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2024. The NRC review is expected to completed in 2026, and construction is planned for later that year. NuScale declined to comment on whether the project needed more participation to proceed.

For all of its safety refinements, the CFPP still relies on the fission of uranium, and with that process comes high level nuclear waste that takes up to 250,000 years to decay to a safe level. The U.S. government has never come up with a permanent solution for the waste, which is still stored near the plants that produced it. Like all nuclear power plants, the CFPP will be paying into a federal fund aimed at developing a solution…………


November 24, 2022 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA

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