Will West Virginia be last again?

On Jan. 14, 2019, President Trump signed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA) sponsored by Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, co-sponsors Shelly Capito and Joe Manchin. The bill reforms the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) licensing procedures for existing and advanced reactors (Small Modular Reactors — SMR).

In the interim: a new administration; great emphasis on CO2 reduction; a reality that most operating coal plants retired by 2035; many operating nuclear plants face retirements; a recognition that increased generation capacity is needed to service the coming EVs. Simply stated, 50 percent of today’s electricity production is in play, plus a need for 20 percent more capacity.

The 24/7 media narratives are wind and solar, none that addresses the real problem — the introduction of a substantial percentage of new production units (backfill for retired plants and additional capacity). The sad part of the narratives is they are just that, narratives. There is no way that wind and solar will ever make a dent in meeting the nation’s electricity needs. Only two options exist — gas and nuclear.

Since Jan. 14, 2019:

* August 2020, NuScale received NRC approval for their SMR design. One module will be operational in 2029, followed by 11 more achieving a total of 720 MW by 2030. Staffing, 500-800 highly skilled workers.

* April 4, 2021, Jeff Lyash, President of TVA meeting with Energy Committee Members, Industry leaders, and Unions stated TVA emissions will, by 2035 be 80 percent of 2005 levels. Coal plants will be retired, more gas added, and preparation underway to add SMRs. TVA will site SMRs at retired coal plant facilities. Lyash stated that their current nuclear power plants produce the lowest cost electricity second only to hydro — real, not hope.

* June 5, 2021, Wyoming announced that a TerraPower 383 MWe Natrium SMR will be installed alongside an operating coal plant. Wyoming (the nation’s largest coal producer) has endorsed nuclear as the next step to maintaining its energy-based economy. Wyoming claims leadership in the Coal-To-Nuclear Transition. Interest for SMRs is growing in Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and South Dakota.

So, where is West Virginia? By choice WV has elected not to be a player in this transition. “The 2012 West Virginia Code, Chapter 16. Public Health — Article 27A Ban on Construction of Nuclear Power Plants” says it all.

For perspective there are 16 coal-fired plants in West Virginia

West Virginia has a choice: see the road ahead looking through the windshield or behind through the rear-view mirror.

Augie Pitrolo

Washington, W.Va.


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