Broken Promises of the Nuclear Power Industry
Will small modular nuclear reactors be any different?
February 12, 2019, Salt Lake City, UT – Former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Peter Bradford, and local advocacy group, the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL), spoke at the Utah State Capitol about mounting concerns over the environmental and financial risks of small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs).
SMNRs are the nuclear industry’s latest attempt to convince the public that nuclear power is cheap and safe. NuScale, an Oregon-based company, is proposing to build the first SMNR facility outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho. This facility would produce nuclear power for neighboring cities and towns, including in Utah where Utah Municipal Power System (UAMPS) communities are weighing whether or not to subscribe to nuclear power from SMNRs.
“SMNRs are a first-of-its-kind repackaging of old nuclear power plant technology and investing in them puts ratepayers in Utah’s small cities and towns at serious risk,” Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director of HEAL Utah, said. “There is case after case of the nuclear industry leaving communities with costs that were much higher than they initially promised.”
This spring, UAMPS communities will be voting on the next step of whether or not to invest in SMNRs. While UAMPS guarantees certain power rates for ratepayers, it’s unclear what assumptions went into determining these rates, which are lower than other estimates for nuclear power.
“The UAMPS project is likely to be an economic burden even if it is completed on budget and on schedule because other electricity sources, including low carbon sources, are cheaper, more flexible, and more easily controlled.” Industry expert Peter Bradford said. “But the chances of the UAMPs project being completed on budget and on schedule are slim indeed. Investments in nuclear construction projects have all too frequently resulted in large rate increases for utility customers, including customers of small municipal utilities and cooperatives.”
Michael Shea, HEAL Utah’s Senior Policy Associate added, “If SMNRs are as promising a source of future energy as UAMPS and NuScale are saying, then why should small towns have to take the financial risk? Why aren’t private equity firms and the major utilities investing in them?”
A handful of UAMPS communities, including St. George, have already declined to invest in SMNRs.
“Furthermore, SMNRs will begin a whole new cycle of generating high-level, radioactive waste,” Williams added, “when still we don’t know how to safely store the waste we’ve got. And it’s one of the most toxic substances on the planet.”
About HEAL Utah
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) has been an environmental advocate, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah for 20 years. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen.
About Peter Bradford
Peter A. Bradford is a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and former chair of the Maine and New York utility commissions. He has taught nuclear policy and law at the Vermont Law School and has taught at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He is the author of Fragile Structures: A Story of Oil Refineries, National Security and the Coast of Maine and has written many articles. He served on a panel advising the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on how best to replace the remaining Chernobyl nuclear power plants. He was part of an expert panel advising the Austrian Institute for Risk Reduction on issues associated with the opening of the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant in western Slovakia.