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Resolution supporting new nuclear technology advances Utah House committee

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, discusses a bill that would make it illegal for a medical provider to perform an abortion if they have knowledge that the woman seeking the procedure is doing so for "the sole reason" that the child would be born with Down synd
FILE - Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, speaks during a press conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. A House committee endorsed 5-3 a resolution supporting the development of "advanced" nuclear technology as a carbon free energy source and someday play a role in Utah's energy portfolio. The resolution now advances to the full House.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature may throw its weight behind the development of "advanced" nuclear technology as part of the state's energy portfolio via a resolution approved in the Senate and endorsed Monday by a House committee.

SCR6by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, received a 5-3 vote in the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee and now advances to the House for consideration.

Bramble said the resolution reaffirms the state's "all-of-the-above" energy policy unanimously adopted by the Utah Legislature in 2008. That policy includes the pursuit of multiple forms of energy, including nuclear, as long as it is cost effective.

"This promotes a clean source of base power," he told committee members. "If we want to clean up our air, and if want to reduce carbon-based emissions and we want base load power, nuclear power is a reasonable and responsible way to go as long as it is cost effective."

The resolution supports a planned 720-megawatt small modular reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory that is a joint project by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project and its technology, developed by Oregon-based NuScale Power, is in the design certification phase before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The 12-module reactor will occupy a 34-acre site at DOE site and is not like "legacy" power plants designed decades ago, Bramble said.

Roger Tew, a consultant for the municipal power association, said if member cities had been asked to consider this 10 years ago, the answer would be no.

But increasing pressure on coal amid a push to reduce carbon emissions is creating a new dynamic to pursue a host of clean energy options, he said.

"This is a cost-effective approach to long-term planning," he said "This is the best option we have seen. That is why we are committed."

But Dr. Scott Williams, executive director of HEAL Utah, said his watchdog organization is not convinced it is a prudent fiscal decision for the thousands of ratepayers who may be impacted.

"We are as concerned about the cost as we are the waste," he said, adding the design of the facility has not been tested.

The $3 billion project is scheduled to go online in 2026 if it passes the regulatory hurdles.