TRIDEC chooses URS for nuclear power study

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldMarch 5, 2014 

URS Corp. has been picked by the Tri-City Development Council to study the possible benefits of building a small modular nuclear reactor system on leased land at Hanford.

TRIDEC was awarded a state Department of Commerce grant of $500,000 for the study and related expenses, after Sen. Sharon Brown made a successful budget request last year. The study is expected to be completed in about five months.

Money for the study came from state capital budget funds for economic development and job creation.

"This is part of a larger effort to diversify our economy in order to ensure a thriving community as Hanford cleanup winds down and is ultimately completed," said U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings.

Hastings is among nine congressional leaders from Washington state who have encouraged DOE to locate a small modular nuclear reactor project in the Tri-City area.

A modular reactor, costing between $500 million and $1 billion, would create 200 to 300 construction jobs and require a permanent operating staff of at least 100 workers, according to TRIDEC.

But the agency's long-term goal is to position the Tri-Cities for a role in manufacturing or at least assembling commercial small nuclear reactors, including for export.

"Small modular reactors represent a strong export opportunity as China and other countries seek clean energy, greenhouse-gas-free energy sources to meet the needs of their growing economies," said Brian Bonlender, director of the state Department of Commerce.

DOE is expected to need more power for Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in about 10 years, about the same time DOE is expected to have a small modular reactor operating somewhere in the United States, according to TRIDEC.

"There is intense national and even international interest in the design, licensing, construction and operation of new small modular reactors at several locations across the U.S.," said Carl Adrian, TRIDEC president.

But TRIDEC believes that Hanford is one of the most economical and useful places for the early deployment of one of the new small reactors.

The study is intended to prove or disprove that. If results confirm TRIDEC's position, some of the grant money could be used to prepare a proposal for the Department of Energy.

Nearly two years ago TRIDEC began discussing with DOE the possibility of using Energy Northwest's never-completed WNP-1 nuclear power reactor on Hanford land already leased from the federal government as a site to operate a small modular nuclear reactor. A "soft analysis" done by Energy Northwest showed that using infrastructure already at the site could save $50 million.

The site previously was issued a Nuclear Regulatory Commission permit, which might streamline the process for licensing a small modular reactor there, according to TRIDEC. There also could be additional cost savings by locating close to Energy Northwest's full-scale commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, including in emergency preparedness, nuclear security, operator training and used nuclear fuel storage.

URS has been asked to identify and evaluate the benefits at a local, state and national level for locating a small modular reactor at Hanford, including any significant advantages to DOE in selecting Hanford as a preferred site.

TRIDEC said it wanted a national company with experience in nuclear siting to conduct the study, but that there could be opportunities for small Tri-City-area businesses. URS has included Independent Strategic Management Solutions, or ISMSolutions, on its team. It is a management and technical consulting business in Richland launched by Shirley Olinger, a former top Hanford DOE manager.

Thirteen companies made proposals to TRIDEC.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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