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Idaho Falls is looking to increase the amount of power the city would get from some small nuclear reactors that are being planned at the U.S. Department of Energy desert site west of Idaho Falls.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to move ahead with negotiating a deal to increase the amount of power Idaho Falls Power will get from the small modular reactor project by having the city take over operation and maintenance of one of the reactors after DOE is done using it for research. The plan is to approve a final contract in October, said City Councilman John Radford.

“This (Joint Use Modular Project) Lay-Off Power Sales Agreement supports the growth and economic community-oriented results by increasing (Idaho Falls Power’s) carbon free electricity production for future City growth from a reliable energy source with economical operating and maintenance costs,” Idaho Falls Power General Manager Bear Prairie wrote in a memo to the City Council.

The 720-megawatt, 12-reactor facility, also called the Carbon Free Power Project, is being built by NuScale Power and will provide power to Idaho Falls and some member cities of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, as well as providing power to and helping research at Idaho National Laboratory.

The effects of this deal, assuming it gets finalized, won’t be seen for years. The reactors are expected to be operational until 2026, and the city would take over the reactor in question in 2034. So, there is time to modify the deal if it ends up being in Idaho Falls Power’s interests, Radford said.

Idaho Falls has already committed to getting 10 megawatts of power from the project. This deal would increase the city’s commitment to about 14 megawatts, Radford said.

While the power Idaho Falls Power generates is already all carbon-free, when the city is short on power it needs to buy it from elsewhere, often from less environmentally friendly sources.

“This will get us very close to becoming completely carbon free, which is very exciting,” Radford said.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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