A Northwest company is aiming to build the country’s first house-sized reactor that can put electricity onto the grid.
It recently cleared a big hurdle with the federal government, passing part of a safety review by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“They look at every aspect of our design in terms of safety,” said Jose Reyes, co-founder of NuScale Power, based in Corvallis, Oregon.
These small modular reactors are essentially scaled-down nuclear plants. They're called "modular" because the idea is that power companies could add as many of them as their customer-base requires.
“You can add modules as modules are needed, as the regional demand increases. They’re very flexible. They’re factory-built,” Reyes said.
The company hopes to build a pilot project in Idaho by 2025. That plant would be licensed by the Utah Associate Municipal Power Systems as it decommissions some of its coal-fired power plants.
Reyes said many utilities with whom they are in talks are also thinking of using this technology as they shut down coal plants.
“I think it could have a big impact on reducing carbon emissions, really, worldwide,” Reyes said.
That Idaho plant would have 12 modules and could power a city the size of Portland.
Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility has long opposed nuclear power — it says small modular reactors bring the same threats to human health and the environment as those posed by larger-scale nuclear plants, including radioactive waste from spent nuclear fuel.
“(Small modular reactors) still present a huge hazard in the form of meltdowns or other catastrophes. It’s just not a risk that we have to take,” said Damon Motz-Storey, clean energy organizer with Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.