Texas kicks off effort to make state a leader in new nuclear

October 3, 2023, 12:04PMNuclear News
PUCT commissioner Jimmy Glotfelty leads the discussion at the Texas Advanced Nuclear Reactor Working Group’s first public meeting, on September 28. (Image: PUCT)

The Texas Advanced Nuclear Reactor Working Group—formed recently by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) at the direction of Gov. Greg Abbott—hosted its first public meeting last Thursday to discuss the group’s organizational structure and outline a plan to turn Texas into a national leader in the use of advanced nuclear energy.

“It’s exciting to see so much interest in this,” said PUCT commissioner Jimmy Glotfelty, Abbott’s pick to head the group, at the September 28 meeting. “Every day there’s another headline about something in this space. The challenge with those headlines is very few of them say ‘Texas.’ We are ecstatic about the X-energy-Dow project, but we need more of them, and our goal in this process is to figure out how we get more of them going.” (In May, X-energy and Dow announced the selection of the latter’s UCC Seadrift Operations manufacturing site in Texas as the location for their Xe-100 small modular reactor deployment project.)

According to Glotfelty, “This is not going to be a government report that sits on a shelf. I’ve written plenty of them, and they’re still sitting on shelves gathering dust. Our goal is to put the bow on Texas and show why we should be the leader in this space. Whether it be supply chain, workforce, the large companies that are already involved in this, the academic community that has been doing research in this, the existing reactor operators, the industrial community, and high-tech community—all of those voices need to come forward so that we can make this pathway successful.”

Growing the group: On September 15, Glotfelty issued a brief questionnaire to potential working group members regarding their availability, technological capabilities, nuclear industry roles, partnerships with supply chain vendors or Texas universities, and participation in similar state or federal efforts. At this writing, parties declaring their interest include, among others, American Electric Power, Constellation Energy, CPS Energy, ERCOT (Texas’s grid operator), El Paso Electric, Entergy Texas, Last Energy, South Texas Electric Cooperative, Vistra Corporation, Xcel Energy, and X-energy.

Goals: The following group goals were noted by the commissioner:

  • Studying technological advances in nuclear energy production, particularly regarding public safety.
  • Mapping the state’s role in deploying and using advanced nuclear reactors.
  • Identifying existing and potential federal and state incentives.
  • Determining nuclear-specific changes needed in the ERCOT market.
  • Identifying any specific federal and state regulatory impediments to development.
  • Considering possibilities for the state to streamline and accelerate permitting through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Encouraging development of a robust supply chain.

Questions: Initial major questions to be addressed, Glotfelty said, include the following:

  • Is Texas willing to put forth financial resources to attract an SMR?
  • How do we incentivize industry to invest in SMR technologies?
  • Should the Texas electricity market be modified to promote SMRs and other dispatchable resources?
  • Should Texas consider using state or other public lands (ports/universities) for a site?
  • What financial resources are needed to attract the nuclear supply chain?
  • Should Texas develop a plan for 20 SMRs?
  • What must state agencies do to attract the supply chain?
  • Should the state consider forming a new nuclear development agency?
  • How does Texas help bridge the valley between licensing and operation?
  • What can the Texas federal delegation do to help the state?
  • What are university roles? Can they build a new reactor?
  • What legislation is needed or modified for the next session?

Deadline: Abbott has set December 1, 2024, as the date the working group must submit its plan and recommendations to his office.

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