At a recent meeting of the Southwest Virginia Energy Research and Development Authority, advanced nuclear was on the docket for discussion. According to an article in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier, Dominion Energy vice president for business development Emil Avram discussed Dominion’s plans for developing advanced nuclear facilities featuring small modular reactors in southwestern Virginia, as well as the company’s vision regarding other energy sources.
Avram’s May 9 talk came at a time when Virginia is at the forefront of national efforts to deploy commercial SMRs. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has pledged that the commonwealth will be the first to build and deploy a commercial SMR, with plans to locate it in the coalfield region of southwestern Virginia.
SMR attraction: Avram said that Dominion is studying the addition of the technology to its fleet of conventional nuclear power plants in Virginia. He told the Herald Courier, “We are exploring SMRs. That typically is in the range of 250 to 450 megawatts. Our traditional nuclear stations generate about 900 megawatts per unit.”
Dominion finds SMRs to be an attractive technology because “they’re more compact, they’re modular so a lot more can be built in the factory—which reduces costs—and because . . . they have a much smaller impact on land use and surrounding communities,” Avram explained. “There are a lot more opportunities to site them in more places so it’s an exciting opportunity,” He continued.
Another benefit, Avram said, is that “an SMR facility would only take about 50 to 75 acres. You can probably operate an SMR facility with about 100 full-time employees. At our North Anna station, we’re approaching 1,000 employees. That’s a cost savings but still a fair amount of high tech, well-paying jobs that can be added to our fleet.”
All-in energy: Dominion’s plans also include the nation’s largest offshore wind energy facility. The company’s “all-in” energy plan includes natural gas, renewables, and purchased power. According to the article, “Dominion’s plans forecast dramatic increases in energy storage capacity and incremental nuclear capacity additions over the next 15 and 25 years.”
Virginia legislation: Gov. Youngkin has stated that he wants to have SMRs deployed in Virginia within 10 years. In March, the governor signed several bills to further Virginia’s all-of-the-above energy plan, including nuclear-related legislation that created the Virginia Power Innovation Fund (for developing innovative energy technologies) and the Nuclear Education Grant Fund (for awarding competitive grants to schools to create employment and training pathways to the nuclear energy industry).