The Logan Municipal Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to stick with a project intended to build what would be the nation’s first small modular nuclear reactor just north of Idaho Falls.
The City of Logan is a member of The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), which formally launched the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) in 2015.
Logan is looking to add new sources of baseload energy in the coming years as existing power contracts are set to expire. Baseload power sources typically operate continuously to meet the minimum level of power demand 24/7.
The hope is to come up with a long-term strategy to reduce carbon emissions and replace aging coal-fired plants with a nonfossil fuel, and medium-sized, flexible power generating source. Nuclear power is an option and could help fill baseload void.
The project calls for constructing a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) power plant using technology being developed by NuScale Power, based in Oregon.
It would be the first-of-its kind technology and that aspect was not comforting to Mayor Holly Daines. “I would prefer to not be in this project and the reason is the risk,” she said
“This has never been done before and because of that I think it should be done by venture capitalists who are taking the risk and not by city rate payers. It could turn out to be a fabulous project,” admitted Daines. “If so, people will replicate it and then we can use that power.”
Despite the Mayor’s objection, council members approved the CFPP Sales Contract, which gives UAMPS Logan’s blessing to continue participating in the project and to “acquire and construct a nuclear generating facility plant to be located at a site within the Idaho National Laboratory” near Idaho Falls.
“There are risks with it going forward. There are risks with us not going forward,” according to Council Member Herm Olsen. “At least to keep our finger in the project, I think it’s appropriate to move forward,” he said.
Logan could pull out of the project at any time before the plants projected completion in the next six to seven years. There are a number of offramp contingencies in place, including cost overruns.
Olsen said he is not a fan of either coal-based or natural gas power. However, “I’ve looked at this small modular reactor proposal pretty closely and feel like it’s appropriate for us to invest in it,” he said.