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  • By Admin
  • February 28, 2024

With the possible perception of favorable conditions for an American Nuclear Renaissance, it begs the question, “When and where will the next nuclear power plant become operational after Vogtle 4?”

Only a few months ago, most nuclear advocates expected the next nuclear power plant to be NuScale. But these plans disintegrated late last year when plans to build six of their NuScale SMRs (small modular reactors) on a site at Idaho National Laboratory for UAMPS (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) completely fell apart. The NuScale design is the only SMR design certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, but UAMPS decided not to go nuclear for their future energy needs. Today, NuScale is working to recover from the abandonment of this project, but they have suffered deep cuts, laying off 28% of their workforce, causing concerns for their future. NuScale does have an advantage over many of the SMR designs – they are the only design certified by the NRC and they use the typical LWR (light water reactor) fuel.

Now, most look to the restart of Palisades in Michigan. Holtec International, owner of Palisades, recently signed an agreement with Wolverine Power Cooperative, a not-for-profit energy provider, for the purchase of up to 2/3 of the power generated by Palisades should the plant be restarted. It was recently announced that Holtec is set to receive a $1.5 billion conditional loan from the Department of Energy. But funding is only part of the equation. Holtec still needs to refuel the plant, hire hundreds of workers, get an operating license from the NRC, or find another company capable of obtaining it, and then find additional buyers for its electricity. However, a giant step has been taken to make the restart a reality. In addition, Holtec is seeking to build two of their SMR-300 Units at the Palisades site. They intend to file a construction permit application in 2026, after the Palisades plant is back online in late 2025. If this comes to fruition the site would have a capacity of ~ 1,400 MW (800 MW from Palisades + 600 MW from the two SMR-300 Units).

Other plants that could become operational within the next several years are TerraPower’s Natrium reactor planned for Kemmerer, Wyoming, or TVA’s plans for the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR at their Clinch River Site. One nuclear advocacy group, Generation Atomic, points to several microreactor projects planned by Oklo, Aalo, or BWXT’s Project Pele that could become operational within the next several years.

Most of these designs face many challenges – regulatory, fuel, funding, and workers – which seems to mean it will take years after Vogtle 4 becomes operational, before we see the next nuclear plant OPERATING in the U.S., even if it is the restart of Palisades.

Photo: HoltecInternational.com