PUD Won't Join Effort
by Steven Friederich
The Grays Harbor PUD has opted against joining a coalition of other public utility districts and private interests looking into a new statewide effort to build a number of small-scale nuclear power plants.
PUD General Manager Rick Lovely told The Daily World on Monday that the project just wasn't a good fit. The decision was made some time ago.
PUD Commissioner Tom Casey says he still remains personally interested in the project. Casey sits on the board of Energy Northwest, which has been pushing for the effort.
Energy Northwest is a collection of 22 public utility districts and five municipalities.
Even without the Grays Harbor PUD's support, Energy Northwest Vice President Jack Baker said enough partners have been found to move on with a feasibility study.
The Grays Harbor PUD conducted a public meeting to see if there was interest in joining the effort back in August. More than 50 people attended the workshop, which drew a mixed reaction from the public.
Baker was seeking $25,000 from the Grays Harbor PUD. Baker said that those who pay would have first rights to any power produced if the technology is ever utilized.
Lovely said the PUD just decided against paying the money. He didn't elaborate on his reasons.
Baker said Energy Northwest's study group looking into the miniature nuclear reactors includes the Grant County PUD, Benton County PUD, the Asotin County PUD, the Kittitas PUD, Ferry PUD, PNGC Power out of Portland and Portland General Electric. Each partner contributed $25,000, except for the three smallest PUDs, which split a single $25,000 payment between them, Baker said.
The study group is researching technology developed by Oregon State University and utilized by a private firm called NuScale. The pre-fabricated, modular 45-megawatt nuclear power units cost $18 million each.
The group is also looking at a similar technology developed by B&W Modular Nuclear Energy.
Energy Northwest was once known world over as the Washington Public Power Supply System, its acronym pronounced as "whoops" after it defaulted on $2.25 billion worth of municipal bonds it had sold on Wall Street to help pay for nuclear power plants, including two at Satsop, that were mothballed before completion. Power customers are still paying for the default.
Baker says there have been no decisions on whether the nuclear technology will ever actually come to Washington state.
"It's purely a study group," he said. "Sometime in the next year we'll be in a position to put it on a shelf for a while or select one of the two vendors. We're at the easy step now. We have to do a lot more due diligence to start the licensing process, which will be very expensive."
Energy Northwest is making room in a master plan for a potential modular nuclear site near its current nuclear plant at Hanford in Eastern Washington. Baker said if Energy Northwest didn't put the project in its master plan, it might never get the land to do the project from the U.S. Department of Energy.
"It's really to preserve an option for us, if we do small modular nuclear or even solar power, which can take a lot of land," Baker said.
Baker said after the feasibility study is complete, there may still be time for the Grays Harbor PUD or other partners to join in the effort. That will be a decision made by the current study group.
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