AP

US gives first-ever OK for small commercial nuclear reactor

Sep 3, 2020, 5:25 AM
nuclear reactor...
The U.S. for the first time has approved a design for a small commercial nuclear reactor. A Utah energy cooperative wants to build 12 of them in Idaho. (Idaho National Laboratory)
(Idaho National Laboratory)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. officials have for the first time approved a design for a small commercial nuclear reactor, and a Utah energy cooperative wants to build 12 of them in Idaho.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Friday approved Portland-based NuScale Power’s application for the small modular reactor that Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems plans to build at a U.S. Department of Energy site in eastern Idaho.

The small reactors can produce about 60 megawatts of energy, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The proposed project includes 12 small modular reactors. The first would be built in 2029, with the rest in 2030.

NuScale says the reactors have advanced safety features, including self-cooling and automatic shutdown.

“This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow,” said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins in a statement.

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems already has agreements with the Energy Department to build the reactors at the federal agency’s 890-square-mile (2,300-square-kilometer) site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear research facility that would help with the development of the reactors.

The Department of Energy has spent more than $400 million since 2014 to hasten the development of the small modular reactors, or SMRs.

“DOE is proud to support the licensing and development of NuScale’s Power Module and other SMR technologies that have the potential to bring clean and reliable power to areas never thought possible by nuclear reactors in the U.S., and soon the world,” said Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy.

The energy cooperative has embarked on a plan called the Carbon Free Power Project that aims to supply carbon-free energy to its nearly 50 members, mostly municipalities, in six Western states. The company plans to buy the reactors from NuScale, then assemble them in Idaho. The company is also looking to bring on other utilities that would use the power generated by the reactors.

Cooperative “members themselves would use a portion of the electricity, but other utilities would become involved and purchase power,” said LaVarr Webb, spokesman for the cooperative.

He said not all the power that will be produced from the proposed reactors has been allocated, but he expects more interest with the U.S. approval of NuScale’s design.

He said the next step is for the cooperative to submit a combined construction and operating license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The process also includes an environmental analysis. Webb said the cooperative will likely have that ready within two years.

The first small modular reactor is scheduled to come online in 2029, with 11 more to follow in 2030.

The modular reactors are light-water reactors, which are the vast majority of reactors now operating. But modular reactors are designed to use less water than traditional reactors and have a passive safety system so they shut down without human action should something go wrong.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the design means the agency is satisfied such technology will work properly.

The modular reactors are also part of a much larger U.S. plan to replace current reactors, many of them decades old, with more efficient and safer reactors. U.S. officials say nuclear power helps reduce carbon emissions from coal and natural gas, a cause of global warming.

There are currently 95 licensed commercial nuclear reactors operating in the U.S., generating about 20 percent of the nation’s energy, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The Utah Taxpayers Association has come out against Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems building the reactors, contending costs will soar as they have with some traditional reactors that are much larger.

But the cooperative says such a comparison is unfair, and akin to comparing a 1960s gas guzzler automobile with a modern electric vehicle.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
2 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
4 days ago
The U.S. Coast Guard ship Bernard C. Webber, leaves the coast guard base, Monday, July 19, 2021, in...
Associated Press

‘Miracle’: Missing cruise ship passenger found OK in water

The U.S. Coast Guard says a passenger who went overboard from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico was rescued on Thanksgiving after likely being in the water for hours.
5 days ago
FILE - A Montana man was sentenced to three years in prison for his role in the Capitol riot. (AP P...
The Associated Press

Montana man gets 3 years in prison for role in Capitol riot

A Montana man will spend three years in federal prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S Capitol.
6 days ago
Debbie, left, and Chet Barnett place flowers at a memorial outside of the Chesapeake, Va., Walmart ...
The Associated Press

Walmart shooter left ‘death note,’ bought gun day of killing

According to authorities in Virginia, the Walmart shooter bought his gun just hours prior to killing six employees.
6 days ago
Dry lakebed...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

Lawsuit looms over tiny fish in drought-stricken West

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Conservationists have notified U.S. wildlife officials that they will sue over delayed decisions related to protections for two rare fish species that are threatened by groundwater pumping in the drought-stricken West. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a formal notice of intent to sue the Fish and Wildlife Service last week […]
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
US gives first-ever OK for small commercial nuclear reactor