Virginia can lead nuclear renaissance, report says

15 June 2015

The state of Virginia has the potential to be a nuclear energy leader in the USA, according to a position paper published by the state-based Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Titled Virginia can lead the nation's nuclear renaissance, the study is authored by Donald Hoffman, chair of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium Authority and a past-president of the American Nuclear Society, and Robert Hartwell, a former Congressional Chief of Staff and lobbyist.

The state's four operating nuclear units - two each at North Anna and Surry power stations - between them provide some 3500 MWe of generating capacity and produce nearly 36% of Virginia's electricity. Citing a 2011 report, the authors note that by 2021 the state will require a further 4000 MWe of generating capacity "just to meet demand".

The state is "uniquely suited" for this new capacity to be nuclear, the report suggests, with a "favourable business climate" and the affirmation of the state's support for nuclear power through the establishment of the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium (VNEC) in 2013. Furthermore, the report describes the "sheer number" of nuclear operations, nuclear related facilities, engineering schools and federal facilities and critical infrastructure which could benefit from nuclear as "breathtaking".

The state is home to nuclear companies including Areva, Babcock and Wilcox, Bechtel Power Corporation, Dominion Power and others; government nuclear-related facilities, including Newport News Shipyard; and boasts a list of universities and research centres offering nuclear-related programs.

The state would stand to gain economically, it says, with nuclear plants generating sales of goods and services and providing well-paid employment.The report's authors also urge Virginia to lead the way in the implementation of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, pointing to their potential safety and security advantages as well as their suitability for deployment at sites such as government facilities.

"Due to the amazing number of nuclear related facilities and Virginia’s critical infrastructure related to national security, it makes perfect sense that Virginia should lead the way in nuclear technology and new and innovative ideas to provide safe and secure power that is also, if necessary, off grid," the report says, adding that underground SMRs placed in key locations at key government facilities "make total sense".

"SMRs dedicated to providing emergency power or continuous power off grid could pave the way for an entire new generation of safe smaller nuclear facilities in key locations across Virginia; creating tens of thousands of high paying construction, engineering and operations jobs," the report notes.

It urges Virginia's leaders to work together to support a nuclear renaissance in the state by supporting the Virginia Nuclear Energy Consortium, a state initiative established in 2013 to promote Virginia's role as a nuclear energy leader, and providing pathways forward for new build nuclear projects and SMRs.

"It is a long term strategy we must embrace; one that recognizes the power of the atom, its natural clean carbon free structure, and its ability to operate safely in a future depleted of fossil fuel and clean coal resources," the report concludes.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News