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Small Nuclear Reactors Get Boost As Western Cities Vote ‘Yes’

A consortium of cities in four western U.S. states have voted in favor of moving forward with a plan to build a demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) power plant in Idaho, which if successful, could lead to a six-reactor project coming online by 2030 and providing carbon free power.

The Tuesday vote by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) consortium saw the plan approved nearly unanimously, in a 26-27 vote, lending a significant amount of impetus to the idea of SMR carbon free power in the United States.

Cities in Utah, Idaho, New Mexico and Nevada voted in favor of the plan, Reuters reports.

The company behind the project, NuScale Power Corp, saw its hopes for a favorable vote slimmed in January, when it announced that the original proposed costs of the project had skyrocketed from $58 per megawatt hour to $89 per megawatt hour.

That price shock came after the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officially certified the design for the country’s first SMR by NuScale.

A statement from the U.S. Department of Energy at the same time noted that the newly approved design "equips the nation with a new clean power source to help drive down" greenhouse gas emissions.

And in a recent interview with The Washington Post, U.S. climate envoy John F. Kerry suggested that without SMR technology, it will be impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid catastrophic fallout from climate change.

If its demonstration SMR is successful, NuScale plans to build six reactors with a capacity of 462 megawatts of carbon free power by 2030.

According to the Sustainable Energy in America 2023 Factbook, 41% of U.S. electricity in 2022 came from zero-carbon sources, including nuclear plants, hydroelectric dams, solar and wind.

While solar and wind prices have continued to plummet, advanced nuclear options have risen. 

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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