In a recent guest opinion piece in the Deseret News (April 23), Peter Bradford opened the door to a discussion on the small modular reactor project being developed by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS, in partnership with Oregon-based NuScale Power.
This new nuclear facility is at the heart of UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project. Unfortunately, by erroneously comparing the CFPP to dissimilar projects, Bradford focused on what the CFPP is not, rather than focusing on what the CFPP actually is. Here’s the reality:
1. Communities need reliable carbon-free power: Bradford alluded to the fact that there are alternative carbon-free power sources that UAMPS should consider above nuclear energy. In so doing, he overlooks the reality that our communities need a steady power source that is available to meet their energy load at any time power is needed. While UAMPS has renewable energy assets, their variability presents a unique challenge to our members’ responsibility to provide reliable power at all times to their residents. Small modular reactors are very efficient at picking up energy load when either the sun or wind is unavailable. Indeed, through a combination of renewables and nuclear energy, the CFPP is providing UAMPS members a realistic pathway to decarbonizing their resource mix.
2. Small reactors are cost-competitive: Bradford claimed that small modular reactors are not cost-competitive and further asserted that natural gas should not be used to evaluate comparative cost. That argument doesn’t hold up, especially since a report reviewed by Bradford himself and published by the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that “multiple-reactor plants … have greater economies of scale.” In fact, cost was a significant reason why UAMPS settled on NuScale’s reactor design. Contrary to the assertions, UAMPS is acutely aware of the shortcomings of larger, traditional nuclear plants and is taking every step to avoid their fate.
First, the individual modular reactor units that make up the NuScale reactor will be constructed in a factory and assembled on site. This alone will reduce both construction and capital costs associated with traditional nuclear plants. Second, with a cost range of $45 to $60 MWh, advanced nuclear remains cost-competitive with other baseload power supplies like natural gas — but without greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, our members owe it to their residents to produce cost-competitive power now and into the future. As states in the region and around the nation aggressively move toward carbon-free energy standards, available carbon-free energy sources like nuclear energy will only become more cost-competitive.
3. This is a first-of-a-kind licensing success: Bradford argued that designs like the NuScale reactor are not realistic and are usually abandoned in the licensing stage. The reality is NuScale’s own design certification application is ahead of schedule. As a former commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, surely Bradford is aware of how remarkable this is and should be applauding UAMPS and NuScale for a job well done.
It is unfortunate that Bradford came all the way to Utah in February to join other anti-nuclear energy advocates in attacking UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project on the same day of its educational public meeting. Had he attended, he could have joined the public and policy makers in actually learning what the CFPP is, rather than speculating about what the CFPP is not.
The reality is that the United States derives 60 percent of its carbon-free power from nuclear energy. This, in addition to the need for a power source that can support a growing Utah and national economy, should make every American interested in the success of projects like UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly identified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the National Regulatory Commission.