Small reactors making news in the Pacific Northwest
Greentech Media has coverage of discussions taking place in the Puget Sound region by electric utilities there about the market prospects of small reactors.
A small reactor is defined as one that generates less than 500 MW of electricity. Companies which are getting attention include NuScale, TerraPower, and Hyperion.
Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency of utilities in the Northwest, has been preparing a report since the beginning of the year on small, modular reactors. The utility is considering an option to build a small reactor in the Tri-Cities.
Utah Senator promotes nuclear energy
Utah Senator Bob Bennett (right) told a group of university faculty in Salt Lake City Aug 14 that nuclear reactors are essential to meet the nation’s need for affordable energy.
“Every study I’ve seen says that under the best of circumstances, solar and wind will never produce more than a single digit percentage of the energy we need. It is the only source that has the capacity to give you the required scale.”
Bennett also endorsed recycling of spent nuclear fuel. He pointed out that France, England, and Japan have such facilities.
“We have the potential in this country to build enough nuclear facilities to require two or three reprocessing plants.”
However, Bennett also observed that political opposition to recycling spent fuel “is pretty high.”
Bennett also backed federal funding for nuclear engineering education. This year he helped get $43 million in money for university programs and R&D. Utah State University got $500,000 from the program.
Idaho Senator backs loan guarantees for enrichment plants
Idaho Senator James Risch (right) wants to double the scope of federal loan guarantees for U.S. uranium enrichment plants. The action, if legislation he plans to support became law, would provide $2 billion in loan guarantees to Areva’s Eagle Rock Enrichment Plant, to be located near Idaho Falls, ID, and USEC’s American Centrifuge Facility which is located in Piketon, OH.
Risch told the Associated Press Aug 13 the political clout of the Ohio congressional delegation could hurt the chances Areva will build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in Idaho. Areva and USEC are competing for a single, winner-take-all, loan guarantee for a uranium enrichment plant.
Ohio is a “battleground" state” for Democrats and during the presidential election, now President and then candidate, Barack Obama wrote a letter to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland expressing support for USEC’s project.
The problem is USEC’s centrifuge technology is unproven and its financials are in dire condition. In late July the Department of Energy told USEC for these reasons it would not award the loan guarantee to the firm. Instead of turning around and awarding the loan guarantee to Areva, it made an unprecedented offer to USEC of $45 million for technology R&D and pushed back the deadline for a decision by six months.
Risch thinks the solution is to simply double the size of the pie to satisfy the political pressure that USEC has brought to bear on the Obama administration. His chances of achieving this result are slim. Risch is a conservative republican who has opposed the Obama administration’s initiatives on economic recovery and health care. Idaho is a small state which is up against Ohio, a predominantly Democratic state with 20 lawmakers and eight times the population.
Risch points out the loan guarantees are not cash grants. In terms of fiscal impact he said, “I have no problem expanding the program.”
For its part the Department of Energy, which is caught in the middle between the political pressure on the White House and its own negative evaluation of USEC’s prospects, based on the facts, had little to say except that the guarantees under the current authority might be divided between the applicants.
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