Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), owner and operator of the Cornhusker State’s only operating nuclear power facility—the single-unit Cooper plant—is beginning the process of studying locations that could potentially host small modular nuclear reactors, the utility announced last Friday.
The effort will be financed through L.B. 1014—a state measure approved in April 2022 that appropriates the $1.04 billion allocated to Nebraska from federal pandemic relief funds.
L.B. 1014 includes $1 million for an SMR feasibility study by an owner or operator of a nuclear power plant in Nebraska. According to the legislation, the study is to assess “(1) siting options for new advanced nuclear reactors throughout Nebraska and (2) existing electric generation facilities based on key compatibility assets for such advanced nuclear reactors.”
NPPD applied for study funds last year, and on January 6, the utility’s application was approved by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development.
Official words: “We are very excited to be a part of this process,” said Roman Estrada, NPPD’s generation research senior program manager. “We are always looking at new technologies and what innovations are being made in the field of energy generation. This study will not result in the immediate construction of an advanced small modular reactor, but it will give us a great look at potential areas in the state where this technology could be sited.”
Details: The first phase of the siting study will involve conducting a statewide assessment to determine the 15 best locations for deploying SMRs based on geographic data and preliminary licensing criteria, NPPD said, adding that two of the key criteria to be considered are access to water and transmission lines. The initial phase has a projected completion date of this spring.
A more in-depth second phase will focus on selecting the state’s four top sites, according to NPPD. Included in this phase will be detailed field environmental and constructability evaluations based on criteria used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when licensing nuclear plants. NPPD estimates that this phase of the study will take approximately one year to finish.
Kansas City, Mo.–based engineering firm Burns & McDonnell will assist NPPD with the study, the utility said.
In case you missed it: In May 2021, Nebraska’s then Gov. Pete Ricketts approved L.B. 84, a bill that, among other things, added “nuclear electric power generation” to the list of renewable energy sources qualifying for tax incentives in the ImagiNE Nebraska Act, a business tax incentive program signed into law the previous year.
At the time, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bruce Bostelman (R., 23rd Dist.) stated, “As the energy industry becomes more reliant on renewable energy, and given the current administration’s commitment . . . to all carbon-free sources of energy, including advanced nuclear reactors, it would be prudent to incentivize nuclear energy in Nebraska.”