A bipartisan group of 30 state lawmakers has joined with much of Washington's congressional delegation in urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to locate a small modular nuclear reactor project in the Tri-Cities.
The group of 21 Republican and nine Democratic members of the state House of Representatives, including 8th District Reps. Larry Haler, R-Richland, and Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, sent a letter to Chu last week expressing strong support for the reactor proposals currently under consideration by the Department of Energy.
Similar letters were sent by nine of Washington's congressional leaders in June, and by Gov. Chris Gregoire in May.
"We believe nuclear energy provides clean, reliable power," the letter said. "Tri-Cities offers not only a very skilled nuclear work force and a supportive community, but the Hanford site offers land, infrastructure and other essential resources that would provide significant cost benefits to developing and constructing this more modern, more reliable and safer reactor technology here in Washington state."
The Department of Energy is considering proposals to award $450 million to support engineering, design certification and licensing for one or two small nuclear reactor designs over five years.
While the proposals are expected to come from firms developing the reactors, the Tri-City Development Council presented a proposal to DOE in Washington, D.C., in June on why the Tri-Cities should be considered for the initial use of one of the new reactors.
A small modular reactor could be used to supply the Hanford vitrification plant with the 70 megawatts of electrical power it will need when it starts treating radioactive waste left from the past production of weapons plutonium, according to TRIDEC. DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also could require almost 30 megawatts of electricity by the end of the decade.
A small modular reactor in the Tri-Cities could help offset the loss of jobs as Hanford environmental cleanup progresses, the legislators' letter said.
"Federal policy currently provides that new economic development opportunities should be considered for communities that experience a downturn in federal employment. By this fall, Hanford will have experienced almost a 20 percent reduction in the cleanup work force of 2010," the letter said.
If manufacturing the small modular reactors is DOE's ultimate goal, it should remember that Washington leads the nation in exports to the Pacific Rim, the letter said.
"Considering the location of Washington state on the Pacific Rim and the potential of (small modular reactors) as an exportable product once they are fully developed, locating the development and commercialization of (small modular reactors) in the Tri-Cities area would eventually benefit not only the people of this state and country but of nations around the world," the letter said.
Small modular reactors that could produce 45 to 200 megawatts are being developed by several companies. They would be useable for small electric grids and locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to add more modules to scale up production if demand increases.
Among the legislators who signed the letter were Haler, Klippert and fellow Mid-Columbia Reps. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, and Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, as well as House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, and John McCoy, D-Tulalip, chairman of the House Technology, Energy & Communications Committee.