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What are Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, and why are they not the answer.

Learn about SMRs and how you can take action. 

In the upcoming months, Utah Associated Municipal Power System (UAMPS) towns will have the chance to decide whether or not to withdraw from the UAMPS-NUSCALE Nuclear Project. If cities like Brigham, Washington, Hurricane, Hyrum and Payson continue subscription, this project will open a path to build a Small Modular Nuclear power plant in Idaho Falls, supplying Utah towns for the first time ever with nuclear power . 

Brigham, Washington City, Hurricane, Hyrum, Payson.

What are SMRS?

SMRs are nuclear reactors with a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, which is about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors. 

Small – physically a fraction of the size of a conventional nuclear power reactor.

Modular – making it possible for systems and components to be factory-assembled and transported as a unit to a location for installation.

 

Reactors – harnessing nuclear fission to generate heat to produce energy.

Why Oppose SMRs?

“too late, too expensive, too risky, and too uncertain,” 

As we race to the approaching deadline of a zero-emissions energy sector, many different types of “green” or “low carbon” energy sources have been put forward as solutions to our energy demand. While these supposed green and low carbon energy sources may sound great on paper, many still emit high levels of emissions compared to other sources; they also need huge amounts of money and require something that we are running out of…time. 

 

When we can least afford it, this proposal slows us down and diverts limited climate resources to unproven SMR technology and away from currently available power solutions like wind, solar, and battery storage that are cheaper, cleaner, reliable, and faster to deploy.

 

We also need to be clear that Nuclear power is not necessarily low carbon when its full life cycle is considered, from the mining of uranium to the decommissioning of the power plant. In addition, we cannot afford to endanger our ever-scarcer water resources by committing them to projects like these.

 

Lastly, we are concerned about this proposed site because of its implications for waste storage in the West. Although we already have a history of nuclear contamination through uranium mining and fallout from tests, up until now, Utah has had a powerful argument for not accepting additional high-level nuclear waste: we simply do not use nuclear power and should not be responsible for its long term storage in our state. This project could open us up for the import of more highly radioactive waste from around the country, and we already know that SMRs will likely generate significantly more waste per megawatt. We should be finding solutions to waste disposal that don’t create more public health problems in overburdened communities, not creating new waste streams.

 

A global study found that 97% of nuclear projects have ended with final costs exceeding initial budgets, with an average overrun of $1.3 billion. Two-thirds of all projects took more time than projected. In the 1980s, American utilities lost $100 billion on nuclear plants that were never finished. More than 100 nuclear reactors in the U.S. have been canceled, nearly half of which had already begun construction at tremendous cost to taxpayers  The SMR project has already doubled in cost since it was first unveiled in 2015. With permits still not finalized, we don’t know how much more these costs could grow, and how much ratepayers will ultimately have to pay for them.

What should we use our money and time for?

To fulfill the energy needs of these UAMPS towns, power managers and city councils should objectively consider the cheaper, safer, and more effective alternatives that already exist through independent analysis and a more transparent and robust procurement process. 

These alternatives include a variety of effective, proven technologies such as solar and wind combined with energy storage, which is known to be far more affordable and can be deployed at multiple scales to maximize the reliability, efficiency, and independence of these municipalities.

TAKE ACTION:

Learn more about the cost of SMRs and contact your city council members.

Questions to ask your city officials. 

  • How can you guarantee that this technology has fewer financial risks than previous nuclear projects? 
  • If NuScale’s project goes over budget, how will ratepayers be protected?
  • Why build expensive, risky nuclear technology when renewables are safer and more cost-effective 
  • How are future generations going to be protected from radioactive waste produced by SMRs?