Logan withdraws from risky nuclear power project

As a member of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), Logan City is now weighing whether to continue its participation in an increasingly expensive nuclear power project.

LOGAN – Members of the Logan City Council voted Tuesday to end the city’s partnership in an increasingly expensive nuclear power project.

As a member of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), Logan City owned a partial interest in a first-of-its-kind nuclear plant proposed to be constructed at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Faced with Sept. 15 deadline to ante up more funding for the risky project, both Mark Montgomery, the city’s light and power director, and Logan Finance Director Richard Anderson recommended that Logan withdraw from the Carbon Free Power Project.

Council members Jess W. Bradfield and Mark A. Anderson were reluctant to make that decision, saying that the innovative project had the potential to produce clean, economical power in the future.

Montgomery told city council members that Logan had invested about $400,000 in the Small Modular Reactor (SMR) project since 2017. If the city had opted to continue its participation in the project into its initial licensing phase through 2023, the price tag would have been another $654,000.

In early August, the Utah Taxpayers Association urged all Utah cities to reconsider their participation in the SMR project due to its potential for out–of-control costs.

UAMPS is a political subdivision of the State of Utah that provides power, transmission and other electrical services on a non-profit basis to member cities in Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote by city council members, Logan and other Utah cities (including Brigham City and Hyrum) were partnered through UAMPS with NuScale, Flour Corporation Worldwide Construction and the U.S. Department of Energy in the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).

The goal of that project was to design and construct the next generation of nuclear power plants, a small modular reactor that would provide 720 magawatts of electricity, enough to power 720,000 homes. The CFPP plan calls for the first SMR to come online in 2029, with 11 more to follow.

At their meeting on Aug. 4, Montgomery admitted to city council members that he shares some of the same concerns about the SMR project as the Utah Taxpayers Association.

In the original CFPP proposal, the U.S. Department of Energy was to foot the bill for the development of the project’s first module. After pledging up to $1.4 billion for those expenses, federal officials have since backed out of that agreement, leaving UAMPS holding the bag for the project’s first-of-its-kind risks.

Montgomery added that estimated cost of the project have also escalated since 2017, jumping from $3.6 billion to $6.1 billion as of July of this year.

Given that inflated cost estimate, Montgomery warned that Logan’s investment in the project could soar to more than $21 million during the second phase of the project’s licensing period from May of 2023 to November of 2025.

Four members of the city council agreed that the SMR project was too financially risky and voted to withdraw from the CFPP agreement, with only Bradfield dissenting.

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22 Comments

  • Dave Powelson August 19, 2020 at 12:27 pm Reply

    Hurrah for common sense. The nuclear industry has a track record of promising cheap clean energy and delivering expensive and deadly results.

    • Bob Meinetz August 28, 2020 at 12:28 pm Reply

      Deadly results? Not a single death has resulted from nuclear energy in 34 years.
      You’ve been reading too many of those Greenpeace pamphlets.

  • Jeffrey August 19, 2020 at 2:23 pm Reply

    I don’t know enough about this particular implementation of nuclear power to comment on the cost. But I am disappointed that Logan won’t be using nuclear power in the near future.
    Nuclear power despite it’s “deadly” reputation has the lowest blood cost of any energy generation.

    • Brent August 19, 2020 at 5:48 pm Reply

      Really? Does your conclusion include lives lost as a result of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters? And please do tell us: How many human lives have been lost to wind and solar power generation?

      • Jack August 19, 2020 at 9:01 pm Reply

        What do we do with the millions of tons of now dead solar panels? Solar is less efficient even than natural gas thanks to fraking. Wind has great potential but it relies on wind which is not always consistent and the infrastructure is mighty fragile. And yes, Mr Jeffery’s conclusion includes all nuclear disasters. If they could keep the price down, SMRs and MMRs have enormous potential to create basically waste free energy. Yes there will be some but we have enough storage capacity to last millennia. The price tag is the issue. It seems all nuclear budgets run significantly higher than estimated. Perhaps it is flawed. Natural gas it is then. Fun fact, US carbon footprint is the same as it was in 1990 and is expected to continue dropping even with a growing population. Hooray for Natural Gas. Hope we don’t run out anytime soon.

      • Paul Menser August 20, 2020 at 8:46 am Reply

        The vast majority of deaths at Fukushima were caused by the tsunami, not the explosion at the plant. If you take the body county from Fukushima and Chernobyl it is still miniscule compared to the number of people killed by coal plant emissions and dam collapses. Nuclear has its risks and it is expensive up front, but show me a wind turbine or solar panel that is going to be still operational 50 years from now. I find it hysterical that fracked natural gas is held up as a clean and inexpensive alternative to coal. Nobody loves “renewables” better than the oil and gas industry. Wind and solar are the bright shiny objects they dangle in front of people who want to feel good about themselves. Meanwhile, the drilling continues and so do the GHG emissions.

      • Robert Parker August 20, 2020 at 5:09 pm Reply

        No deaths occurred at Fukushima as a result of radiation. I have visited Fukushima.
        Here’s my report:
        https://nuclearforclimate.com.au/2017/05/22/three-days-in-fukushima/

      • TheWhiteWhale August 21, 2020 at 9:52 am Reply

        Please take time to look up the deaths actually resulting from RADIATION from these incidents. Ignorance hurts everyone, and is in fact the main cause of death in the Fukushima incident (fear of radiation caused mass panic and evacuations, resulting in the death of many hospital patients). Not to mention the main death toll in Fukushima was due to a massive tsunami.

      • Dominic Napolitano August 21, 2020 at 10:42 am Reply

        Brent,
        We are bludgeoning the environment with fossil fuels, remember the Deep Water Horizon next time you fill your gas tank, in comparison nuclear is benign. Even renewables have strong environmental and social effects, i.e. Three Gorges Dam in China. 1.4 million people were relocated.

      • Billy Gogesch August 21, 2020 at 7:29 pm Reply

        yes.
        https://ourworldindata.org/safest-sources-of-energy

  • Illya August 19, 2020 at 7:19 pm Reply

    Search for “deaths per terawatt hour” in your favorite search engine. There is a 2012 study that compares the different types of power generation and death rates. Coal is at the top with 100,000 deaths per terawatt hour generated. Nuclear is at the bottom with 90 deaths. Above it is wind 150 and solar 440. Those numbers include the deaths at Chernobyl.

    • Jose Idaho August 20, 2020 at 8:48 am Reply

      Finally someone actually does some research before going off of “movie” rated disasters. Great job lllya!. And most of our Power is still coal generated. So how “Green” is your machine???

  • Cal August 20, 2020 at 7:41 am Reply

    This valley would be much better served by Wind generators of power. No carbon footprint, no nuclear waste or fear, and less land needed than solar farms. With existing hydroelectric power, a wind farm should be very valuable to eliminating power needs for the people of Cache.

  • Shannon August 20, 2020 at 7:51 am Reply

    The amiguity in the article’s title should be corrected. “Risky” describes the financial uncertainty the council was responding to but implies that nuclear is risky. These new small modular reactors are not “risky”. Cache Valley’s continued dependence on coal is offensive with all the directly linked health issues, environmental, and economic costs.

  • Paul Menser August 20, 2020 at 8:47 am Reply

    The vast majority of deaths at Fukushima were caused by the tsunami, not the explosion at the plant. If you take the body count from Fukushima and Chernobyl combined it is still miniscule compared to the number of people killed by coal plant emissions and dam collapses. Nuclear has its risks and it is expensive up front, but show me a wind turbine or solar panel that is going to be still operational 50 years from now. I find it hysterical that fracked natural gas is held up as a clean and inexpensive alternative to coal. Nobody loves “renewables” better than the oil and gas industry. Wind and solar are the bright shiny objects they dangle in front of people who want to feel good about themselves. Meanwhile, the drilling continues and so do the GHG emissions.

    • BJ Williams August 20, 2020 at 8:54 am Reply

      Thank you Paul for the informed comment. These reactors cost so much as they are first of a kind and moving the nuclear industry in the correct direction.

  • BJ Williams August 20, 2020 at 8:52 am Reply

    You all need to understand base load versus peak load. Wind and solar are dependent on the weather and cannot be relied upon for the baseload power. Nuclear, especially modular reactors, is the answer in this case if you want a carbon free footprint for your baseload power. I am a proponent of alternative energy sources but you need to think of the energy profile as a whole. On top of that, you are talking about accidents in other countries that are regulated by less stringent agencies. That’s not an apples to apples comparison.

  • Paul Menser August 20, 2020 at 8:55 am Reply

    The death toll from Fukushima (where most of the people were killed by the tsunami, not the explosion at the plant) and Chernobyl combined is miniscule compared to lives lost from coal plant pollution and dam collapses. Nuclear is expensive up front, but resilient and stringently regulated — much more so than any other source of power. It has the smallest footprint. Do you think the wind turbines and solar panels of today are going to be still working in 25 much 50 years? I find it hysterical that fracked natural gas is held up as a clean alternative to coal. Nobody loves wind and solar more than the oil and gas industry. They are the bright shiny object the Kochs and company love to dangle in front of people who want to feel good about themselves. Meanwhile, the drilling continues (Hello, ANWR!) and so do the GHG emissions.

  • Jordan A August 20, 2020 at 9:28 am Reply

    No!! Why would you pull out of this? Nuclear is the cleanest, safest, and long-term cheapest option that we have available for large power generation. It’s baseload generation, reliable, and will improve the stability of the grid over all. It has high initial capital cost, but it lasts a long time. I would strongly reconsider pulling out–if we don’t support building up the capability to put in more nuclear, we’ll never get a leg up on climate change. Logan, do the long-term responsible thing, rather than bending the the fleeting whims and concerns of short-sighted individuals and fear mongers!!

  • Dennis O'Hara August 20, 2020 at 12:59 pm Reply

    As a former nuclear power engineer, I agree we could favor the cleanliness of nuclear power. Our evaluations still need to focus on run away cost. I’ve read the UAMPS agreement, and it’s a blank check for them. They gave the impression they had a mature design, and spiralling upward cost estimates would not happen. They did. Get out!
    We have however forgotten another HUGE issue related to later costs: WASTE DISPOSAL. This was not addressed in the UAMPS agreement. This is a politically charged issue so much so that even DOE has pulled out. Optimistic as we can be, small city pragmatism rules us out of the UAMPS agreement.

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