Nuclear Power In The Copper Valley: CVEA's Point Of View

THE JOURNAL INTERVIEW  CVEA Explores Nuclear Power To Lower Rates  CVEA CEO Travis Million at Tolsona Lake Lodge  meeting. (Country Journal)...


THE JOURNAL INTERVIEW 

CVEA Explores Nuclear Power To Lower Rates 

CVEA CEO Travis Million at Tolsona Lake Lodge  meeting. (Country Journal) 

Questions & Answers With Travis Million, CEO Of Copper Valley Electric


On Thursday evening, March 24th, Copper Valley Electric's CEO, Travis Million, addressed the Greater Copper Valley Chamber of Commerce about our electrical utility's recently announced interest in nuclear power to solve our high power costs. 

The presentation touched on a number of topics. It was a long presentation. Several days later, on March 29th, the Country Journal wrote to Travis Million with questions about the presentation, asking him to double check the most notable points. His responses are printed below. 

Here's a complete transcript of the Journal's questions.
The CVEA response is in red type. 



WHY NUCLEAR?
In early January power rates soared. In February, CVEA announced it would be looking into placing a nuclear power plant somewhere in its Valdez-Copper Valley service area.

Q: You’re looking at “nuclear” because our board met last year, and you’re developing a strategic plan to reduce the use of diesel fuel. 
CVEA is looking at nuclear as a potential option to reduce or eliminate the need to use liquid fossil fuels.  One of the goals from the Board’s strategic planning session is to “develop a plan to reduce the use of diesel fuel”.

Q: Bills are typically 18 to 19 cents in summer with hydro. 
Correct

Q: In winter, it’s normally 30% hydro. In some years you run hydro into January.
Correct

Q: But it began freezing up in the last week of October (this year was it?) 
Last year (2021) freeze up began the first week of October.

Q: This leads to a fluctuation in rates.
Yes, less hydro and fluctuation in fuel prices

Q: What’s the rate this winter averaging?  
November – March average residential rate in the Copper Basin was $0.364 /kWh with the high being in January at $0.411 /kWh
 

Q: CVEA is spending $1 to $1.5 million in fuel costs a month. 
Correct

Q: This winter we saw some pretty substantial electric bills. 
Correct

Q: CVEA has looked into various alternatives, including wind, solar, biomass, tidal, additional hydro

(All descriptive photos, courtesy CVEA)  





POWER PLANT'S NUCLEAR FUEL
This type of proposed plant claims a safer type of nuclear fuel than traditional plants. 
 

Q: Enriched uranium is the “size of a poppy seed.”
 
Correct

Q: (It's) triple coated in silicon carbide (tank armor).

Q: (The uranium) is coated in silicon carbide and graphite to contain radiation. 
Correct



SAFETY ISSUES
This type of proposed plant claims it can't melt down or have uranium stolen from it, and is safe enough for young sailors to use on ships.


Q: If you lose cooling or heat transfer system, system will self-stabilize on its own.
Correct

Q: You can “walk away” from it. 
Correct

Q: “There’s no way (for terrorists to) strip the uranium out of these things” 
Correct

U.S. Navy runs on small nuclear reactors. 
Correct
 

OTHER ISSUES
Safety issues, need, proposed savings,..

Q: Tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, underlayment of land (are issues about a safe place to put a power plant.)
Correct

Q: (CVEA wants as a goal) "member stabilization with non fluctuating rates." 
Correct

Q: Project has goal of a  20 to 25 cent (kWh) range. 
Correct

Q: (Plant operation) training is available. 
Correct








NUCLEAR WASTE
People at the presentation asked about how much nuclear waste there would be, where it would be stored, and how it might be removed from Alaska. The nuclear waste is said, in this type of power plant, to be extremely small. 


Q: Waste: Small footprint of a yard by a yard box… Meaning what? For the entire life of the project? For a day’s waste?
This would be the amount of fuel that would need to be disposed at the end of the life cycle, typically once every 20 years in the application we are looking at.

Q: Waste: “It will not stay in Alaska” 
Correct

Q: Willing places elsewhere are being asked to take in nuclear waste. 
Correct

Q: Department of Energy has an active request for proposal for communities to become “depositor” 

Q: Hopefully something will be figured out (for waste disposal) in the next 26 to 27 years. 
Correct

Q: (Nuclear waste) would be transported out of state by truck or barge? 
Correct 

 

LOCATION FOR A LOCAL POWER PLANT
Travis Million told the group that he felt Alyeska's Pump Station 12 would be an ideal plant location.

Q: Pump 12.
Correct 

Q: Please clarify why Pump 12 would be available. 
Currently not being used by Alyeska, remote, very close proximity to our existing transmission lines.
 



TIME LINES  
With electrical rates being a problem now, how long would this take to put into place?

Q: In best case scenario still 7 to 8 years out (to build a local nuclear plant.)
Correct

Q: Operating life: anticipate 40 years. 
Correct

 

HURDLES/LEGISLATION 



Feasibility study will be completed this summer.  CVEA plans to hold public meetings prior to and after the feasibility study is completed.  The Board will make a decision on what to do regarding advanced nuclear in later summer/early fall.

Also — Apparently there are regulatory hurdles. What are they? Briefly. 
Currently the Alaska state statue requires the legislature to have siting authority for all land used for nuclear, no matter what size.  Also, requires a six-department ongoing study on the technology.  SB177 and HB299 streamline this from the standpoint of 1) defining microreactors to less than 50MW 2) removing siting authority from the Legislature for microreactors and moving this authority to the local level and 3) exempting the ongoing study for MMR’s as the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (UAF) and at least four national labs are already conducting these studies.  This doesn’t remove any of the requirements in the state statute regarding the State Department of Environmental Conservation and federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements for permitting and licensing a microreactor.

Also — Hurdles/benefits of having (nuclear plant located) in the incorporated city of Valdez. Briefly. 
If a project is feasible and the location is set in Valdez, the City Council would have to approve the land use for a microreactor. 

Also — Hurdles/benefits of having (nuclear plant located) in a total free-for-all of Copper Valley. Briefly. 
Due to no incorporation in the Copper Valley, the siting authority if the project location was selected in the Copper Basin would revert back to the Legislature.

If the project is deemed feasible the biggest hurdle will be the public education on the technology, safety, and environmental impact.  The largest benefit would be lower cost, stable rates for the next 20-40 years compared to diesel fuel generation.

 

FINALLY...
Where would a Copper Valley nuclear reactor stand in relation to the rest of the nation?

This would be the first such operation in America. 
This would be the first commercial application in the United States for USNC.  They have plans to deploy their first unit at Chalk River, Canada and a second at the University of Illinois.  CVEA would be the third deployment if feasible.

Canada will have a test facility. (Anywhere else?) 
See previous question.

Eielson is “looking” at it, too. 
Eielson publicly announced plans to deploy a microreactor in the 2027 timeline.  They have not selected a vendor at this time.
 
You discussed briefly why this company is trustworthy. Again? Briefly.  
USNC is based in the United States with over 200 employees, many of which have been in the nuclear field most of their careers.  They have worked in private industry, national testing labs, and federal agencies such as the nuclear regulatory commission.  They understand what it takes to deploy, operate, and support this technology.
 

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