KENNEWICK — A Tri-Cities group is studying the possible benefits of building a small modular nuclear-reactor system at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
The state Legislature last year set aside $500,000 to study the manufacturing and advancement of small modular reactors in the Tri-Cities to meet future demand for low-carbon power, the Tri-City Herald reported.
The money will be used to pay for Tri-City Development Council’s (TRIDEC) study and then a proposal to the Department of Energy, if the study shows benefits of building at Hanford.
“This is an opportunity I do not want to see pass us by,” said Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick.
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The council, which supports business development in Benton and Franklin counties, is seeking bids this month from companies interested in conducting the study.
The Department of Energy already has announced $452 million in matching funds for two proposals to design and license modular nuclear reactors.
The first award went to Babcock & Wilcox in cooperation with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Last month, the DOE announced an award to NuScale Power in Oregon with tentative plans for an Idaho plant that would be operated by Energy Northwest of Richland.
Small modular reactors are about one-third the size of current nuclear-power plants and could produce 45 to 300 megawatts of power. These reactors could be built in factories, transported to sites where they would be installed and be grouped together as power demands.
The DOE grants do not yet include site selection or construction, giving the council time to convince DOE that Hanford is the best place for an operating small modular reactor.
A new small modular reactor, costing between $500 million and $1 billion, could create construction and permanent jobs, potentially replacing some jobs that likely would be lost at Hanford, according to TRIDEC.
DOE plans to have the first small reactors operating in about a decade, about the time most Hanford cleanup other than radioactive tank-waste retrieval and treatment is planned to be completed and employment is ramping down, the newspaper reported.
TRIDEC also wants to position the Tri-Cities for a role in manufacturing or assembling commercial small nuclear reactors.