Youngkin to propose funding for small modular nuclear reactors

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Within two weeks of rolling out a Virginia energy plan that included a push for new nuclear development, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced plans for a multi-million dollar investment in the power source.

Youngkin said Friday that he would include in his year-end budget proposal $10 million for a new Virginia Power Innovation Fund, half of which would be for the development of a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) in southwestern Virginia within 10 years.

The General Assembly must approve all of the Governor’s budget proposals.

“Now is the time to lead,” Youngkin said. “So let’s get to work.”

The funds would be used to make southwest Virginia a center for nuclear innovation, Youngkin said, including investments in research and development efforts. Money specifically for SMR development would be available for researching the technology, building a workforce for it, and exploring sites where it could be developed.

SMR technology is designed to be a “plug and play” type of nuclear reactor that can be manufactured at a facility and then installed at a particular site, according to an August. report prepared for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

If developed, the Southwest Virginia SMR would be the first of its kind in the country, Youngkin said.

Can Southwest Virginia Become a Lab for Renewable Energy?

The push for the expansion of nuclear power was introduced in Youngkin’s four-year plan “all of the above”. energy project which he announced in Lynchburg on Oct. 3, which also called for revisions to Virginia’s landmark 2020 Clean Economy Act. The VCEA sets fossil fuel phase-out dates and requires increasing amounts of utility power to come from renewables as the state aims to achieve a carbon-free electric grid by 2050. It also includes mandates for the development of wind, solar and energy storage. by Dominion and Appalachian Power Company.

Along with those calls, Youngkin asked the State Corporation Commission, which regulates Virginia’s electric utilities, to conduct a cost analysis comparing renewable energy technologies to available alternative technologies.

Youngkin on Friday discussed the potential of alternative technologies such as nuclear, carbon capture, hydrogen and battery storage. For example, captured carbon could be used in the manufacture of concrete and paint, manganese and metallurgical coal could be harvested for battery storage development, and water and ore from underground mines could be used. for hydrogen power generation, Youngkin said.

But several groups said the announcement of the innovation fund came without any input from local stakeholders.

Project developmentDevelopment processes that ignore community voices are not the right way to gain support for a proposal,” said Rebecca Shelton, director of policy and organizing for the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center. “Time and again, the way residents find out about a new project is through an announcement in the press. »

House Speaker Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, also unveiled a partnership Thursday with West Virginia Republican House Speaker Roger Hanshaw to promote nuclear development.

The only new large-scale nuclear power plant to be built in the United States in decades is the Vogtle plant in Georgia, which has been under construction for a decade, with costs climb to around $30 billion.

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