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 reactors
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a new type of nuclear power comprised of several small reactors rather than one or two big ones. This technology is being developed by an Oregon-based company called NuScale among others. Currently, NuScale is working with around 30 towns in Utah — who are not Rocky Mountain Power customers and already generate or purchase their own electricity — to convince them to invest in a first-of-its-kind, $4+ billion SMR 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 new, untested technology.
This would be the first time nuclear power would be a source of electricity for people in Utah and it would weaken the argument that we shouldn’t be the dumping ground for high-level nuclear waste because we don’t benefit from nuclear power. Like all proposals to build new nuclear plants, the risk of storing more radioactive waste that will come from 80 years of this SMR project operation is not worth the benefit of the power it will generate. We are closely following the development of SMRs, studying the nuclear power industry’s long history of overrunning their budgets and failing to complete projects on time, as well as ratepayer protection issues, massive government subsidies, and the overall economic viability of this project. We are also speaking directly with the officials and citizens in towns considering this project and consulting with national power experts about the reliable and clean energy alternatives available to local communities that make it unnecessary to subscribe to power from SMRs.
Learn more about SMRs and our work here.