A new project could make Idaho Falls the leader in nuclear technology. A company out of Portland, Oregon wants to build a small modular power reactor. NuScale Power said its preferred location is at the Idaho National Laboratory site because of the expertise the INL has with nuclear technology.
But the INL hasn't signed on to the idea.
The plant will be used to generate electricity. Chief Commercial Officer Mike McGough said where the energy goes to is dependent on who owns the plant.
"Unless the plant will be able to generate electricity competitive with the alternatives, the plant won't be built," he said.
McGough also said it is smaller than the average plant at 44 acres. It can also be transported anywhere.
"We will build the plant, the reactor, the containment vessel, here in the U.S. in a factory that can be shipped anywhere in the world," he said.
NuScale Power said it will use natural properties like gravity and heat.
"We use the transfer of heat to conduct and generate steam, which turns the turbine and makes electricity," McGough said.
He also explained how using physics has an advantage.
"If we should be faced with a station blackout event, the plant will safely shut itself down and cool itself off," he said. He hopes the plant can show other states what they're missing.
"Older coal plants start to be phased out. The base load electricity has to be replaced by something and nuclear is the natural choice," he said. Idaho Falls Power may play a role in the project.
"With us having such a strong reliance on hydro, when we have bad water years, those can have a negative impact on us in terms of power availability, as well as the availability to serve surplus power in the spring and summer time," said Jackie Flowers, general manager of Idaho Falls Power. Flowers said as for customers paying a smaller amount on utility bills, she isn't sure what will happen just yet.
On the opposition is Beatrice Brailsford with the anti-nuclear group Snake River Alliance.
"We see announcements that small modular reactors are the safest reactor, that is absolutely correct, and the reason is because small modular reactors haven't been built," Brailsford said.
NuScale Power is hoping to win two federal grants. We should know in a week if the company is awarded. Once everything is cleared, NuScale hopes the reactor would be operational by 2024.