Oregon Group Says New Nuclear Reactor Plan Threatens Tri-Cities and Columbia River | North West


RICHLAND – An Oregon environmental group is opposed to Energy Northwest’s plan to place a small modular power reactor on its leased land at the Hanford nuclear reserve near the Columbia River just north of Richland.

Earlier this year, Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia Generating Station nuclear power plant near Richland, announced plans with X-energy and Grant County PUD to add a small modular reactor near its current large commercial nuclear reactor. cut.

Columbia Riverkeeper says in a new report that it is concerned about the used radioactive fuel the proposed new reactor would generate.

The United States now lacks a deep geological repository for spent fuel from commercial nuclear power plants, after work to develop the repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada ceased.

Spent fuel from Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear reactor, is stored in 19-foot-high concrete and steel storage cylinders on a reinforced concrete slab near the reactor until the country has a deposit.

The small nuclear reactor planned by Energy Northwest is a high-temperature gas-cooled Xe-100 reactor, which could be the country’s first operational advanced nuclear reactor. The 80-megawatt reactor could be operational in 2028.

The project, with added modular reactors, could be extended to a 320 megawatt reactor.

The Columbia plant has the capacity to generate 1,207 megawatts of electricity.

Columbia Riverkeeper claims that the Xe-100 reactor would produce more used fuel than the conventional large reactor per the power output of each.

He is also concerned about the plant’s location on land leased from Energy Northwest in the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear reserve in eastern Washington, which was developed for weapons production. in times of war rather than for the commercial production of electricity.

The DOE’s 580 square foot nuclear reserve was used to produce two-thirds of the country’s plutonium from WWII to the Cold War.

Today, approximately $ 2.5 billion is spent annually to clean up radioactive and chemical contamination left behind by the project.

The DOE is now focusing on 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste in underground reservoirs after chemical processes were used to separate small amounts of plutonium from spent uranium fuel.

Used fuel from commercial nuclear reactors remains in solid form rather than being chemically treated.

“Adding more nuclear infrastructure – a small modular nuclear reactor – to Hanford without any long-term plan for radioactive waste should be a failure,” said Lauren Goldberg, legal director of Columbia Riverkeeper.

Waste from a small modular reactor would weigh down on future generations, said Miya Burke, lead author of Columbia Riverkeeper’s new report “Q&A: Development of nuclear power threatens the Columbia River.”

“A new nuclear reactor and its inevitable waste would further perpetuate the burden of cleanup,” she said.

The report cites the Confederate tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, who have treaty rights in Hanford, as opposing further nuclear missions to the Hanford site.

The Umatillas say that no expansion of nuclear power generation should be developed without permission obtained by the tribes with government-to-government consultation.

Energy Northwest responded to Columbia Riverkeepers’ concerns, saying it has always supported open discussions on advanced nuclear reactors and small modular reactors.

But there are questions about the validity of some of the new report’s claims and the supporting data.

Among the issues raised in the report were the safety and cost of the proposed new small modular reactor, which remains under development.

X-energy claims that the design of its proposed reactor is based on “safe, secure, clean and affordable technology”. The Department of Energy granted it $ 80 million to develop and demonstrate its first small commercial modular reactor.

“Over the past year, we have engaged many groups and stakeholders – from environmental organizations and tribes to elected officials and local communities – to understand their concerns and receive their feedback,” Energy Northwest said in a statement. “Energy Northwest and our partners hope to have the same opportunity with the authors of this report. “

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