The first customer for a small modular reactor (SMR) in the U.S. has selected a site located about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, for construction of a 50 MW unit.
Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) announced this week that the firm had chosen a preferred site within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Doug Hunter, CEO of UAMPS, made the announcement at the Intermountain Energy Summit being held in Idaho Falls.
The 35-acre site is located about six miles south of the Lost River Rest Stop west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 20 & 26 and due north of EBR-1 where atomic energy was first used to generate electricity in December 1951.
The site is geologically stable and far enough away from other facilities at the INL that it will not impact their operation. The INL encompasses an area of 890 square miles.
The entire facility will eventually include up to 12 50 MW SMRs, turbines, storage for spent nuclear fuel, administrative offices, and transportation access. A rail line from Blackfoot, ID, to the INL may be developed further to support delivery of large reactor components. Officials in Idaho Falls said in a press statement the project could create over 1,000 jobs.
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Energy issued a permit to UAMPS as part of the site selection process. The permit opened the door to the utility to evaluate the alternative locations and make a decision to eventually build on one of them.
At the same conference, Mike McGough, Chief Commercial Officer for NuScale, said that the firm is “nearly ready” to submit its SMR for design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The company has said previously that it expects the application to be delivered to the agency by late 2016. That process will take three-to-four years after which, if successful, UAMPS will apply to the NRC for a COL to build and operate the reactors.
UAMPS sells electricity at the wholesale level to utilities in seven western states. It formed the partnership with NuScale in 2013.
Court Orders DOE to Provide Documents on Nuclear Waste Shipments
A federal judge has ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to let the court examine documents sought by former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus that describe shipments of spent nuclear fuel to the INL. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill said the court will review the documents to determine if they can be released for public review.
Andrus, a long time arch foe of nuclear spent fuel R&D at the INL, had sought the documents under a Freedom of Information Act request. However, DOE delivered papers with most of the information blacked out.
Andrus is seeking information on several proposed small shipments of spent nuclear fuel that DOE wants to send to the INL for R&D evaluation. The shipments would require a waiver of the 1995 Settlement Agreement which sets terms for progress on cleanup of nuclear waste at the INL.
Andrus has argued that no waiver can be granted until DOE can make progress with its Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTW) that is supposed to turn about 1 million gallons of liquid nuclear waste into dry powder which can then be shipped to a geologic repository in New Mexico.
Work began on the IWTU in 2005 at an estimated cost of about $160M. Since then costs have escalated to almost $600M and the technology is getting a review by a new site contractor, who took over this year, to find a way to make it work.
Andrus filed the lawsuit when he got a pile of paper from DOE with black magic marker streaks instead of the information he wanted from the agency. He claims that granting the waiver would allow DOE to use the INL as an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s commercial reactors which are storing 77,000 tons of spent fuel.
In blunt language, Andrus told the Associated Press (AP) this past week that he is suspicious of the DOE’s intentions.
“We have to know what’s going on,” Andrus said. “Their stonewalling and reluctance lends credence to my suspicion. That’s all I have right now — a strong suspicion backed up by a history of an agency that has run roughshod over the public for way too many years.”
AP reported that the Energy Department argues that the information can’t be made public because it involves internal communications that fall under an exemption to the act. The agency also cited attorney work-product privilege, and attorney-client privilege.
Winmill in his 29-page ruling said the Energy Department’s explanation for blacking out pages of documents didn’t say whether the redactions “buried information relating to substantive policy about the transport and storage of large quantities of potentially dangerous nuclear waste, disclosure of which may very well be in the public’s interest.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has refused to sign a waiver for shipment of the spent fuel. Earlier this year DOE diverted the first shipment from INL to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and also sent the R&D money to evaluate it to that lab. A second shipment is pending. DOE says it wants an evaluation of “high-burnup” fuel by the INL which is why it scheduled the shipments.
INL GAIN Names Westinghouse Executive to Run the Program
The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week that Rita Baranwal is the new director for the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program (press release). Baranwal was Director of Technology Development at Westinghouse. Baranwal brings deep private sector experience to GAIN’s mission of driving advanced nuclear toward commercialization in domestic and global markets.Baranwal takes over a program that is a bright star in the government’s efforts to promote advanced nuclear technologies. Recent accomplishments include.
- Granted funding for two reactor design teams, X-energy and Southern Company/TerraPower, with a multi-year cost share of up to $40 million for each company.
- Awarded eight Small Business Voucher awards that provide national laboratory support to advanced reactor developers. Some of these vouchers went to small companies who are part of the growing advanced nuclear supply chain.
- Funded eight advanced nuclear companies as part of the 54 grants it made for the $16 Million “Projects to Help Commercialize Promising Energy Technologies.” The eight nuclear projects will collaborate with important GAIN partners at Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The GAIN initiative, announced at a White House Summit in November 2015, was created to provide support for the nearly 50 advanced nuclear startups that have been established across the U.S.
Joshua Freed, a Vice President of the Third Way, a Washington, DC, think tank, wrote in a blog post that GAIN is also supporting the inaugural Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp at University of California, Berkeley. He wrote that the competitive educational program is aimed at helping young innovators develop nuclear-specific entrepreneurial skills.
Additionally, the bootcamp includes opportunities for nontechnical students with backgrounds in the arts, communications, policy, and international affairs to participate as well, opening the doors to groups who traditionally have not been a part of the workforce pipeline, but are now understood as having valuable expertise for the future of nuclear.
# # #