Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Background

The nuclear industry has a long history of cost overruns, schedule delays and project failures. Almost thirty Utah cities and towns who are members of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) are being courted to invest in this first-of-its-kind SMNR project. UAMPS is marketing this proposed project, to be located near in Idaho Falls as the Carbon Free Power Project, or CFPP, despite the fact that there are other safer, cleaner, and less costly carbon free options and that major utilities and venture capital firms have rejected SMNRs as a poor financial investment.

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Small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) are a new, untested nuclear reactor. While they are smaller than traditional reactors, they rely on the same basic technology as traditional reactors to generate electricity and they produce just as much high-level radioactive waste per megawatt.



The UAMPS members considering this project are: Beaver, Blanding, Bountiful, Brigham City, Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Enterprise, Ephraim, Fairview, Fillmore, Heber City Light & Power, Hurricane, Hyrum, Kanosh, Kaysville, Lehi, Monroe, Mt. Pleasant, Murray, Oak City, Parowan, Payson, Santa Clara, South Utah Valley Electric Service District, Spring, Washington, and Weber Basin Conservancy District.


In order to stop Utah towns from investing in SMNRs and putting their ratepayers at risk for excessive costs, affected city councils need to first get all the facts, not just UAMPS’ promotional information. HEAL has been traveling to UAMPS communities to host educational evenings and discussions for the public, meeting with residents, city council members, power managers, and mayors, and holding press events to help spread the word. HEAL has also been empowering supporters to raise questions with their local elected officials and urge them to be cautious of SMNRs.

Concerned with the environmental and economic repercussions that ratepayers in Utah cities and towns may face from investing in SMNRs, HEAL contracted Energy Strategies, a Salt Lake City-based energy modeling firm, to conduct an independent study comparing the cost of SMNRs to comparable portfolios of low or non-carbon emitting resources. With the release of this study, HEAL has been presenting it to as many as possible to show that there are other, better options available to Utah.


SMNR cost analysis

Concerned with the environmental and economic repercussions that ratepayers in Utah cities and towns may face from investing in SMNRs, HEAL contracted Energy Strategies, a Salt Lake City-based energy modeling firm, to conduct an independent study comparing the cost of SMNRs to comparable portfolios of low or non-carbon emitting resources.

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HEAL contracted Energy Strategies for an independent study on the economics of SMNRs but had no input on the methodology or findings of the study, which was conducted with no preconceived outcome.

Energy Strategies is a well-respected, Salt Lake City-based energy modeling firm whose clients include industry and trade associations like the Utah Association of Energy Users, numerous renewable energy developers, and industrial customers such as Chevron/ExxonMobil, among others.


This study shows that alternative scenarios that include various combinations of wind, solar, energy storage, market purchases, and natural gas were roughly 40% cheaper than the projected cost of SMNRs. Even when the lowest cost possible for SMNRs was considered, the alternative portfolios remained less expensive. These other scenarios, therefore, represent hundreds of millions in savings over a 20-year period in comparison to SMNRs. As the predicted costs of solar, wind, and battery storage resources continue to decline, the likelihood increases that these resources will be even less costly compared to SMNRs.

Please view and download the Energy Strategies study here. Further materials are available for download at the end of this page.


Please view and download the Energy Strategies study here. Further materials are available for download at the end of this page.

This includes the cost of energy and capacity resources and resource integration costs (does not include interconnection/transmission). Alternative portfolios were all roughly 40% ($24-$28/MWh) less costly than SMNRs.

Present value savings relative to SMNR base case over 20 years starting in 2026 ($M)

Even when the lowest levelized cost sensitivity for SMNR’s was considered, alternative portfolios remained less expensive.

As costs of solar, wind, and battery storage continue to decline, the likelihood increases that these resources will be less costly than SMNRs.


After reviewing the results of the study, HEAL’s initial impressions were confirmed that SMNRs are an unnecessary, high-risk project that Utah towns and cities should not be investing in, especially as proven, cheaper, and safer alternatives are readily available.

HEAL believes that municipalities throughout Utah should be skeptical of investing in SMNRs. Not only will SMNRs likely cost participating municipal ratepayers an excess of hundreds of millions over a 20-year period, and potentially billions over the entire 80-year lifetime of SMNRs, but even that assumes that this project will defy the history of nuclear power plant projects and be completed on time and on budget.

Finally, HEAL recommends that, before they vote to participate, these UAMPS members should delay further investment until an objective and independent cost comparison study is completed that includes all renewable options as would be done in any major utility.

*These policy conclusions and recommendations are those of HEAL Utah. Energy Strategies conducted the cost analysis will respond to questions about the report’s assumptions and methodology but  they do not take a position on whether any community should or should not subscribe to this project.


You can access a livestream of our June 20, 2019 press conference releasing this study on our Facebook page.

Better Energy Options Available to Utah Communities
A new cost analysis on small modular nuclear reactors released

June 20, 2019, Salt Lake City, UT – Today the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) released an independent study on the increased costs of small modular nuclear reactors for ratepayers compared to alternative sources of electricity. HEAL is urging the almost 30 towns throughout Utah to delay their participation in the Utah Associated Municipal Power System’s (UAMPS) proposed small modular nuclear reactors.

UAMPS’ project would bring nuclear power to Utah for the first time in the form of small modular nuclear reactors (SMNRs) to be located in southern Idaho. SMNRs are a new, untested type of nuclear reactor that relies on the same basic technology and fuel as traditional reactors to generate electricity and creates just as much high-level radioactive waste per megawatt.

“The nuclear industry has a long history of project cost overruns, time-table delays, and failures,” said Dr. Scott Williams, HEAL Utah’s Executive Director. “In some cases, nuclear projects leave local communities deep in debt and ratepayers are burdened with repaying that debt over decades. There is no reason to believe that this project will be any different.”

In addition to ratepayer and environmental repercussions, HEAL highlights the fact that major utilities and venture capital firms have rejected SMNRs as a poor risk. Energy Strategies, a Salt Lake City-based energy modeling firm, was engaged to conduct an independent study comparing the cost of SMNRs to comparable portfolios of low or non-carbon emitting resources.

This study found that alternative scenarios that include various combinations of wind, solar, energy storage, market purchases, and small amounts of natural gas were roughly 40% cheaper than SMNRs. Even when the lowest cost for SMNRs was considered, the alternative portfolios remained less expensive. These other scenarios represent hundreds of millions in savings over a 20-year period in comparison to SMNRs. As the predicted costs of solar, wind, and battery storage resources continue to decline, the likelihood increases that these resources will be even less costly than SMNRs.

“With the proven, safer, and cheaper alternatives available, Utah towns should reconsider their participation in this project,” said HEAL Utah’s Senior Policy Associate, Michael Shea. “SMNRs are an unnecessary, high-risk project that has the potential to put communities on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 20 years, and possibly billions over the 80 year  lifetime of the project.”

HEAL recommends that these UAMPS cities and towns delay further votes on SMNR participation until an independent and comprehensive cost comparison study is completed that includes all renewable options, as would be done by any major utility.

“The city councils in these towns are all that stand between the pocketbooks of ratepayers and a lack of due diligence by the promoters of these SMNRs,” said Claire Geddes, Utah’s long-time consumer advocate. “The council members need to hit the pause button and look at all of their options before they commit their citizens to forty years of unnecessarily high power bills.”

The UAMPS members considering this project are: Beaver, Blanding, Bountiful, Brigham City, Central Utah Water Conservancy District, Enterprise, Ephraim, Fairview, Fillmore, Heber City Light & Power, Hurricane, Hyrum, Kanosh, Kaysville, Lehi, Logan, Monroe, Mt. Pleasant, Murray, Oak City, Parowan, Payson, Santa Clara, South Utah Valley Electric Service District, Spring, Washington, and Weber Basin Conservancy District.

Learn more about and download the study at www.healutah.org/smnr. Watch the Facebook livestream of today’s press conference on HEAL Utah’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HEALUtah.

HEAL Utah had no input in the assumptions, methodology, or findings of the study. The policy conclusions and recommendations are those of HEAL Utah. Energy Strategies conducted the cost analysis will respond to questions about the report’s assumptions and methodology but they do not take a position on whether any community should or should not subscribe to the Carbon Free Power Project.

About HEAL Utah:

The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. 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.

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Downloadable materials

Click the image above to view and download HEAL Utah’s SMNR Study Fact Sheet
Click the above image to view and download the Energy Strategies SMNR study
Click the above image to download the corresponding Energy Strategies slides summarizing the SMNR study

How to get involved

Sign up for our email list here and be sure to include your address so HEAL can reach out to you for direct action if you live in one of the UAMPS communities. You can also email our Grassroots Organizer, Noah, directly to get more involved – noah@healutah.org.