May 23—A plan to locate a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) in Southwest Virginia within the next 10 years received another boost Monday.
The LENOWISCO planning district, working alongside Dominion Energy, released a Site Feasibility Study that considered features such as population, existing infrastructure and available land.
The project team reviewed seven preliminary sites within Lee, Wise, Scott and the city of Norton and declared the region to be competitive for the development of an SMR.
An SMR is an advanced nuclear reactor that has about one-third of the generating capacity of traditional nuclear power reactors.
The Virginia Department of Energy also touted Southwest Virginia as an "ideal location to develop advanced nuclear technology."
Locating an SMR in this region is part of Gov. Glenn Youngkin's Energy Plan that he released in October 2022.
The plan's goal is to become the nation's leader in SMR technology so the plan advocates for the development of the first commercial SMR in the U.S. in Southwest Virginia and calls for developing spent nuclear fuel recycling technologies that offer the promise of a zero-carbon emission energy system with minimal waste and a closed-loop supply chain.
The state will work with government, industry and academic partners to "develop a plan to deploy a commercial small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia within 10 years."
"The first step in validating southwest Virginia as a competitive hosting ground for small modular reactors is complete," said Virginia Energy Director Glenn Davis in the Monday announcement. "This region will continue its energy development culture and our agency is committed to lead the way in providing safe, reliable and affordable energy for the people of the commonwealth."
A 300-megawatt SMR can power 150,000 homes. With the creation of 40-60 long-term jobs and hundreds of initial construction jobs, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates the deployment of an SMR could create over $100 million in new local tax revenue over an 18-year-period.
The lifespan of this nuclear technology is 40 years.
"A growing Virginia must have reliable, affordable and clean energy for Virginia's families and businesses," Youngkin said in announcing the Energy Plan in 2022. "We need to shift to realistic and dynamic plans. The 2022 Energy Plan will meet the power demands of a growing economy and ensures Virginia has that reliable, affordable, clean and growing supply of power by embracing an all-of-the-above energy plan that includes natural gas, nuclear, renewables and the exploration of emerging sources to satisfy the growing needs of commonwealth residents and businesses."
Youngkin said retiring baseload generation in favor of solar and wind will reduce Virginia's electricity reliability.
"Nuclear is nearly three times more reliable than both wind and solar," according to his plan. "As a result, the industrial world relies on continuous baseload generators such as natural gas, nuclear and coal. Cost, technical concerns related to utility scale storage, and transmission upgrades demand prudence before removing current baseload capacity."
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com
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