Last Sunday’s paper included a guest column with the headline: “Should Idaho Falls be investing in nuclear power?”
Mr. Hamman’s column accurately enumerated the largest nuclear power generation missteps over the past 40 years. For anyone in the energy industry, these failures are consistent reminders of the risks involved with developing a new generation resource.
Yes, Idaho Falls Power does offer some of the lowest rates in not only the region but also the country.
Our locally owned hydropower is low cost and pollution free. In fact, the only emissions in our power portfolio come from when we must purchase power on the open market during summer and winter peak energy consumption periods.
So why would we risk low cost, reliable and emission-free power?
By investing in new technology, we are helping pave the way for even more reliable, low cost and emission-free power options.
Ownership of our generation resources provides much greater control and reliability. Seeking a balanced and emission-free portfolio is a smart goal, and our utility has had a long history of doing just that.
Idaho Falls Power’s 118-year history of power generation development dates back to 1900 when city leaders didn’t wait for some venture capitalist to replace its gas lamps with electric light. Rather, they installed a generator on an irrigation ditch.
The community also didn’t wait for someone else to replace the hydro generators destroyed by the Teton Dam failure.
In fact, the bulb turbine generator that sits just south of the Broadway bridge was itself a demonstration project in partnership with the INL in the early ’80s located on the original dam site destroyed by the flood a few years prior.
The bulb design was new technology the Department of Energy was hoping to demonstrate the benefits of, so they funded the first of the three generators that Idaho Falls Power now operates. Today, our city is growing and our power needs are growing as well. We currently purchase more than 60 percent of our power needs through supply contracts. Overreliance on contracts can create vulnerability.
Our community has a legacy of developing locally-owned generation resources to serve our needs for clean and affordable energy. The small modular reactor is no different.
Idaho Falls Power currently has an option to purchase ten megawatts. NuScale, the developer, has the obligation under our purchase agreement to be cost-effective and not exceed $65 dollars per megawatt, at a leveled cost.
If they do we can walk away for low cost. And, it is very important to note that we are not finished with negotiation and design. The target price is still lower yet. This unique agreement shifts much of the development risk off of Idaho Falls Power.
This is very different from previous nuclear generation developments throughout history, with both the corporate partners and the Department of Energy stepping in to offset the risks associated with developing this innovative first-in-kind technology.
City leaders are hopeful this new modular reactor design will deliver on its promises and our community will benefit from having another dispatchable, cost-effective, safe, reliable, emission-free energy resource in its portfolio.
This will allow us to protect our affordable power rates for generations to come while also creating hundreds of local high-paying jobs. And, in the event the risks become too great or the costs too high, we can exercise our option not to participate.
So, should we be investing in nuclear power? Idaho Falls Power says yes, especially when the benefits far outweigh the risks as they currently do with this unique “option” to participate.