Small modular nuclear reactor project needed for abundant, carbon-free energy

                   Ted Olson


Small modular nuclear reactor project

needed for abundant, carbon-free energy



We appreciate the Sanpete Messenger recently publishing an article about the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) being planned by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS).

As members of UAMPS, and as local public power officials in Mt. Pleasant, Spring City, Fairview and Ephraim, we think it is very important for Sanpete County citizens to hear directly from us why we believe this project is important to ensure stable, affordable electricity for our customers in future years.

We recognize that this project has generated opposition from anti-nuclear activists. But the critics aren’t the ones who have a sacred obligation to supply electricity to homes, businesses and industries in our valley. Electricity is vital to almost everything we do in modern society. Our economy would quickly collapse without affordable, steady power.

We feel that obligation deeply to keep the lights on in Sanpete Valley homes, and we also feel an obligation to ensure that our future energy resources are clean and carbon free. We will aggressively pursue new renewable resources, but we must also have a backup supply of stable “dispatchable” electricity—available all day and night, 365 days a year, whether or not the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.

That’s why we are planning to develop the Carbon Free Power Project, which will be the first small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) project in the United States. The new technology inventor is Dr. Jose Reyes of Oregon State University. Dr. Reyes spoke at Snow College four years ago, and generated considerable enthusiasm among the engineering faculty and students.

The SMR features seven levels of safety with the ability to shut itself down with no human intervention, pumps or AC/DC power. This carbon-free electricity will be clean and carbon-free, and will back up our current and future renewable energy resources. It will make up a portion of our energy portfolios, and it will be a critical resource.

Over the next 10 years, we must replace our coal generation resources. Our coal plants have served us well, but they are nearing the end of their life cycles and they must be replaced with carbon-free energy. After years of study and impartial investigation, conducted with some of the top energy experts in the world, we feel strongly that the CFPP is the best option to complement renewable resources to ensure long-term, affordable, carbon-free energy for our customers.

And we are confident, despite what the anti-nuclear critics might say, that this energy will be very affordable. The claim made by critics that electricity is available for 40 percent less hides the fact that these resources would only be available for about 40 percent of the day. As municipal power agencies, we are proud of our long history of providing stable electricity to homes and businesses at excellent rates. We expect that this project will ensure those low rates long into the future.

Affordable nuclear power, blended with low-priced renewable resources, provides the ultimate assurance that rates will continue to be low and abundant electricity will be available as our communities grow and as many industries, including the transportation industry, are electrified.

We have established benchmarks for the cost of electricity from this project. If our economic competitiveness tests ever show the price of power exceeding our benchmarks, then the project simply will not be built.

We project the price of power from this project will come in at or below $55 per megawatt hour, which makes it very competitive with any other form of dispatchable energy, including combined-cycle natural gas plants. We hope that sufficient subscription will develop in the near future.

One reason we are confident that rates will remain competitive is that we have strong partners in this project that are offsetting the risk of building first-of-a-kind generation. The U.S. Department of Energy has supported this project for many years, and we are finalizing a multi-year cost-share award with DOE amounting to $1.4 billion. That award will help ensure that we meet our price target of $55 MWh.

The DOE is supporting this project because it seeks to advance a new generation of small nuclear reactors to reduce carbon emissions, fight climate change and continue U.S. leadership in nuclear innovation and development.

There will always be critics of innovation and progress. We believe that with our years of study and preparation, strong national partnerships, and highly disciplined financial management, this project will provide clean, safe, affordable, carbon-free energy for decades into the future.