WASHINGTON CITY – As cities seek viable alternatives to coal-fueled power generation, one alternative being explored and invested in by Washington City is nuclear power. During a meeting Wednesday night, the City Council approved an agreement with the “Carbon Free Power Project” that will provide funds toward identifying potential sites for a nuclear power plant.
The “Carbon Free Power Project” is focused around the future use of small modular nuclear reactors being developed by Oregon-based NuScale Power. The compact reactors are anticipated to generate around 50 megawatts of power per unit.
NuScale Power has proposed to build a power plant housing 12 of the compact reactors and produce an estimated 600 megawatts of power. The plant is slated to be built in the area of Idaho Falls, Idaho. If the project comes to fruition, the plant will be built and operational by 2024.
“We’re looking at approximately 11 megawatts, or 11,000 kilowatts (for the city) from this facility once it’s up and running.” Washington City Manager Roger Carter said.
Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, or UAMPS, and Washington state-based Energy Northwest are very interested in the project and have entered into a teaming agreement with NuScale to investigate the viability of the company’s compact nuclear reactor technology. Both UAMPS and Energy Northwest are conglomerations of municipal utilities. UAMPS serves over 40 municipal power utilities, including Washington City.
The agreement Washington City Council unanimously approved Wednesday devotes funds to a two-phase study related to identifying viable sites for the power plant, and then conducting an in-depth study into the location’s overall feasibility.
“This is the first of probably numerous agreements we’ll see,” Carter said. The project will progress in phases, with participating cities being given the option to sign or step back from the project if they no longer wish to pursue the project.
Washington City’s commitment for the first phase of the agreement is $20,000, with the overall cost being shared behind participating cities. The second phase of the agreement could run between $1.3 million to $2.6 million overall depending upon whether or not UAMPS partners with NuScale on the project. If it does, NuScale will cover half of the cost.
The project has also received a $250 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop the compact reactors, Carter said.
Washington City could pull out of the project if it felt it was wasn’t viable, Carter said, but that would only apply for so long. Once the project progresses far enough, the city will be locked in, he said.
“Our concern of course is making sure that we have an adequate baseload come 2024, and power, especially with our growth,” Carter said. “What we’re finding is a lot of the baseload we’ve relied on in years past is fast disappearing.”
St. George City officials also considered investing in the project, but chose to step away from it in March due to concerns over costs and not wanting to lock the city into the project just yet. However, Laurie Mangum, the city’s energy services director, said St. George may still buy into the project at some future date.
The City Council passed a resolution encouraging the Washington County Commission to put a proposed 0.25 percent local sales tax for transportation funding on the ballot for voters in November.
The ballot initiative is a part of the Transportation Infrastructure Funding Bill, 6HB 362, which passed the Utah Legislature earlier this year in an effort to address a growing shortfall in transportation funding. The legislation raises the state’s gas tax by 5 cents a gallon staring next year, and also provides a local option for counties to implement the 0.25 percent sales tax via voter approval. Food was not included as a taxable item.
Money from the sales tax would be split between the county and cities and be used exclusively for transportation infrastructure needs.
Several cities in the county, including St. George, have passed resolutions supporting the sales tax option and encouraging the County Commission to put it on the ballot. The Washington City Council also passed a resolution, but only to urge the commission to put the question the voters.
“Let the citizens decide what they want to do,” Councilman Ron Truman said.
- Note: The Transportation Infrastructure Funding bill, 6HB362, was brought during the 2015 General Session of the Utah Legislature. It passed the Senate 20-8, with 1 not voting; from Southern Utah, Sens. Ralph Okerlund, David Hinkins, Steve Urquhart and Evan Vickers all voted for the bill. It passed the House 44-29, with 2 not voting; from Southern Utah, Reps. Brad Last, John Westwood, Michael Noel, V. Lowry Snow, Don Ipson, and Merrill Nelson voted for the bill, and Rep. Jon Stanard voted against it. The bill was signed by the governor March 27.
- Council OKs transportation funding initiative
- City opts to withdraw from nuclear power project, keep options open
- Washington City: ‘business friendly,’ nuclear power option, Southern Pkwy to Sand Hollow nears completion
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