NuScale nuclear reactor

A small modular nuclear reactor, designed by Oregon-based NuScale Power, could begin producing carbon-free electricity at the INL Site in 2026. The reactor design features 12 60 megawatt modules and is being proposed by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

Local cities have reached deals to use more than 150 megawatts of power from a small nuclear reactor project planned for eastern Idaho.

The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems board of directors met earlier this week and passed a resolution recognizing the fact that the project, which will consist of 12 60-megawatt small modular reactors producing 720 megawatts total, has 150 megawatts worth of buy-in, said UAMPS spokesman LaVarr Webb. Webb said UAMPS set 150 as a milestone that would indicate whether the Carbon Free Power Project had support from enough UAMPS members.

“The process to reach the 150 megawatts has been going on for several months, and each member of UAMPS had to decide if it wants to participate in the project and go through the process of their governing bodies to approve participation and at what megawatt level,” Webb said.

UAMPS, whose members are mostly cities in Utah but include Idaho Falls and a few other cities in neighboring states, plans to buy power from the reactors NuScale Power wants to build at the Idaho National Laboratory desert site west of Idaho Falls. The reactors are going through the federal permitting process now. Construction is expected to start in 2023 and the reactors are expected to be operational in 2026. Thirty-four UAMPS members are taking part in the project, UAMPS said in a news release.

The project still faces years of financial, regulatory, political, engineering and construction hurdles before it might start producing power, not to mention the all-but-certain litigation.

The Logan Municipal Council voted earlier this week to sign a sales contract to take part in the project. The project has been controversial there — Logan Mayor Holly Daines has opposed it, worried about risk to the city’s ratepayers, and the city has scaled back its intended participation from the 30 megawatts it was discussing in earlier phases of the project.

Daines said after months of discussion on the risks and benefits, council members had expressed interest in 10 megawatts in one-on-one talks, but she told the council at Tuesday evening’s meeting that she would only sign the contract at 5 megawatts.

The city of Idaho Falls also is in the process of negotiating an agreement that would increase its buy-in from 10 to 14 megawatts by 2034.

Reaching 150 megawatts of subscription “triggers continued work and evaluation of the project, including increased focus on site characterization and preparation of a Combined License Application (COLA) for submittal to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” UAMPS states in a news release.

“I appreciate the hard work and oversight of the (Carbon Free Power) Project Management Committee, comprised of members participating in the project, along with the UAMPS staff and our partners, in reaching this milestone,” said UAMPS CEO and General Manager Douglas Hunter. “A project of this magnitude and importance requires a real team effort, and we look forward to working with this team as we enter new and exciting phases of the project.”

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.