Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Would Bring 1,000+ Jobs to Idaho Falls
IDAHO FALLS — During the Intermountain Energy Summit, held in Idaho Falls earlier this week, there was discussion about Idaho National Laboratory being the preferred site to locate the construction and operation of the world’s first NuScale Power Small Modular Reactor plant. The impact on the local economy will be significant, according to a preliminary economic impact analysis commissioned by Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper earlier this spring.
Spearheading the Carbon Free Power Project initiative, which includes SMRs, is the public power consortium Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, which has 45 members in seven western states, with Idaho Falls Power being the largest member.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy granted a site use permit to find an ideal location for the reactor at INL. UAMPS underwent a review process, with the understanding that any location would be subject to a full environmental analysis and approval by DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The SMR project is in its early stages, but the reactor could go online as soon as 2024 which is also the time when many U.S. coal plants are scheduled to start shutting down due to ongoing industry challenges.
According to NuScale Power, construction of the SMR plant would create more than 1,000 jobs during the three-year peak of construction activities. Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper states, “This project is proving to be exciting and beneficial in every possible way. It brings high quality jobs and economic vitality to our region, it places Idaho Falls into a key leadership role for the nuclear power industry, once again, and it allows us to be at the forefront of providing safe and clean baseload energy—something the entire globe is clamoring for.”
Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper commissioned a preliminary economic impact analysis through the Idaho Department of Labor to take an initial glance at the potential economic impact this project would have on the region. It is anticipated that more in-depth economic impact studies will be conducted as the project progresses.
Preliminary estimates indicate that Phase I of the project – the construction phase will cost $2.8 billion and directly support up to 1,000 jobs. Construction of the SMR would create or sustain an additional 11,808 jobs in the local economy through indirect and induced economic activity – creating a total employment impact of 12,808 jobs through the duration of the project. Total labor income is expected to increase by $1.5 billion, with a combined average wage of $44,937. Combined industry sales are expected to increase by $3.8 billion over the course of the construction project.
Upon project completion, current estimates indicate the operations phase of the SMR will support 360 jobs annually. Indirect and induced economic activity would create or sustain an additional 1,147 jobs – the combination of both creating a labor income that is expected to increase by $98 million, with average earnings of $65,324 per job. Combined industry sales are expected to increase by $389 million.
Dana Briggs, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Idaho Falls states, “As shown by the data gathered in this economic impact analysis, realizing the location of a Small Modular Reactor at the INL site will have a tremendous impact on our local and regional economy. During both the construction and operation phases, the SMR project’s direct and indirect impacts will spur growth, development and career opportunities in eastern Idaho.”
“Not included in the study is the impact of the SMR supply chain to eastern Idaho,” adds Briggs. “Regional companies are well positioned to provide supplies, technology, and expertise for SMR technology to be deployed throughout the nation and world. The economic possibilities are mutually beneficial for our businesses, citizens, and community. This is an excellent opportunity for our region!”
Coal plants, which have been our country’s workhorses for decades, are nearing the end of their lifespans. Because of growing concerns about the impacts of climate change, it is believed that carbon and environmental regulations on those plants will make them too expensive to operate in 10 to 15 years. Coal accounts for more than half of UAMPS’ power portfolio. And while natural gas plants are also a baseload alternatives, they still emit carbon and historically have experienced volatile pricing.
One of the conclusions of the many panelists and speakers at the recent Summit was that any serious effort to combat climate change must include nuclear, and advancement in nuclear technology is principal to the evolution of our energy resource. “UAMPS is looking for stable, baseload carbon-free replacement,” states Idaho Falls Power General Manager Jackie Flowers. “It is essential that we look to nuclear as a carbon hedge. The SMR project at INL will produce baseload electricity day-after-day, hour-after-hour, for decades,” adds Flowers who also serves as the Chair of the UAMPS Board of Directors.
The NuScale Power design allows for a much smaller footprint than the traditional sized reactors that power our current nuclear fleet. “An SMR also allows scale-ability of generating capacity to match needed demand. The plant could provide up to 570 megawatts of baseload electricity. To put this into perspective, one megawatt can power 1,000 homes,” adds Flowers.
A recent analysis of nuclear-wind integration produced results that reinforce the multi-module nature of the SMR design, allowing plant output to be varied by as much as 40 percent in three ways that can span a wide range of timeframes. The added flexibility of this carbon-free baseload resource will support integration with wind and solar generation that enhances grid stability and responsiveness.
From: East Idaho News