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Health, Science & Environment

Utah Cities Eye Power From Small Reactors

UAMPS Web Page
Screen Grab 9/4/15
The idea of small modular reactors is gaining traction for both environmental and financial reasons. UAMPS members are interested in their feasibility.

A few Utah communities are exploring an energy future that includes nuclear power. The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, a co-op comprised of 45 cities and utility districts, is considering small modular reactors. The co-op’s been thinking about next-generation nuclear power for years, says UAMPS spokesman LaVarr Webb, because these 50-megawatt reactors promise safe, stable electricity that doesn’t pollute.

“This would be sort of like a new, modern Toyota Prius with all kinds of safety features and cleaner – comparing that to a 1960’s Cadillac with big fins,” he says.

This summer the UAMPS member cities of Kaysville and Bountiful decided to chip in hundreds of thousands of dollars for feasibility studies to join a public-private partnership with the U.S. Energy Department and a company called NuScale Power. A site at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls is planned for building and testing up to a dozen of the small reactors.

The concept follows of national trend of shifting away from fossil fuels. Webb says UAMPS foresees a time when electricity from coal-fired plants will be too expensive.

“There’s always a bit of nervousness about being on the cutting edge or the bleeding edge,” he says, “but UAMPS leaders feel that they’re doing the right investigation to be certain that this will work out for customers.”

UAMPS probably won’t be deciding if it will help construct the small modular reactor for a couple of years. And one unsolved problem is what to do with long-lived reactor waste.

The project is entirely separate from the 3,000 megawatt Blue Castle nuclear plant proposed for a site near the Emery County town of Green River.

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