A bill that would offer support to Utah cities participating in a project to add nuclear energy to their power portfolios received final passage in the House on Wednesday.
Environmental advocates have opposed the resolution, citing waste and cost concerns. But Rep. Brad Daw, the resolution’s House sponsor, told his colleagues that under new technology that’s being developed at Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, the energy is clean, reusable and abundant.
“It provides a lot of benefits both in terms of powering our houses and also driving our economy,” said Daw, R-Orem. “I really stand fully in support of this resolution, just basically indicating that we would like to see good, advanced nuclear technology promoted in this state and used in a manner that is wise and environmentally sound.”
SCR6 passed 62-11 in the House and now awaits the governor’s signature.
Thirty municipalities with the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), a consortium of municipally owned power systems in Utah and several other Western states, have partnered with NuScale Power to study and create the new small modular nuclear reactor technology. The proposed 12-module plant would be located at Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, where it could power Utah’s cities from hundreds of miles away.
In 2008, the Legislature passed and the governor signed a state energy policy that said it should pursue all forms of energy if cost effective. The resolution’s original sponsor, Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said the Carbon Free Power Project checks those boxes; the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) has challenged that assertion, arguing that costs will likely be greater than expected.
If they stick with the project, the municipalities involved wouldn’t actually power their cities with nuclear energy until around 2026, since the proposal is now in the exploratory phase. And they still have opportunities to leave the project if it proves too expensive, with NuScale promising to reimburse 100 percent of the costs incurred since November 2017 if UAMPS participants choose not to participate past 2019. Murray is the only city in Salt Lake County considering the project, and its City Council has committed $30,000 to explore the new technology.
HEAL says it isn’t advocating for the governor to oppose the bill and says it will focus in the future on making the case to UAMPS members that the costs of the project are too high and that the project isn’t feasible.
“I think our biggest worry with the resolution is we don’t want municipalities to think that this is a green light from the Legislature to move ahead with these projects and that it’s important for them to do their own independent analysis,” Michael Shea, a senior policy associate with HEAL, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.