While nuclear power does have a lower carbon footprint than coal or gas, the waste it inevitably creates — which can last thousands, even tens-of-thousands of years — is not worth the significant risk. Further, renewable energy and battery storage are making continual improvements in affordability and accessibility, while options for storing nuclear waste have not made any progress in the last 60 years, which makes renewable energy a more promising path towards a future of truly clean energy. It is for these reasons that we oppose the development of new conventional or light-water small modular nuclear (SMR) power plants.
(Fourth generation nuclear technology development is focused on eliminating the safety, waste, and cost problems of nuclear power. We are withholding judgment until we see what emerges as there is currently no fourth generation nuclear power technology that is commercially viable.)
Much of our work to stop nuclear waste generation happens in local communities that face the question of whether or not they want to produce or use nuclear power or have the waste stored in their backyard. In these communities, we educate the public and local city councils and we work with power managers to show them reasonable, clean alternatives to model a future of clean and reliable electricity for their communities.
Small Modular Nuclear Reactors
Small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) are a new, virtually untested type of nuclear power comprised of several small reactors rather than one or two big ones. Currently, around 30 towns in Utah to are being asked to invest in a first-of-its-kind, experimental $4+ billion SMNR facility just outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho. These Utah towns, who are members of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), will be deciding in the next 18-24 months whether or not to commit millions of dollars from their residents’ utility bills to pay for this unproven, unnecessary and costly technology.
HEAL is monitoring the development of SMNRs, studying the nuclear power industry’s long history of overrunning their budgets and failing to complete projects on time, as well as analyzing the costs for ratepayer protection issues, taxpayers (through massive government subsidies), to assess the overall economic viability of this project. We are also speaking directly with the officials and citizens in towns who will be voting on participation in this project.
In the spring of 2019, HEAL contracted with Energy Strategies, a power and energy analytics firm to conduct a independent study on the future electricity cost and reliability options available to local communities both with and without the inclusion of SMNRs.