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Gov. Youngkin pushing for small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has a “moon shot” goal to ramp up nuclear energy. He’s aiming at Southwest Virginia, saying it “has an extraordinary workforce in the energy world.”

Youngkin’s 2022 Virginia Energy Plan includes several recommendations in energy innovation.

“Southwest Virginia has always been, and always will be about energy,” said Will Payne, director of Invest SWVA.

One goal of the plan is to deploy a commercial small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia within 10 years. Payne says it’s a prime area, due to its coal-mining roots.

“With these locations, mining activities required significant power, significant water and other land attributes that are also conducive to the deployment of small modular reactors.”

He says small modular reactors, or SMRs, harness thermal energy to generate electrical power. Adding the self-contained generation units are small, more economical, safe and modular in nature.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, SMRs generate about one-third the power capacity of traditional nuclear reactors and can be located on sites not suitable for larger nuclear power plants.

Right now, there are dozens of proposals seeking regulatory approval, and at least one SMR design has been approved for construction in the Pacific Northwest.

Peter Anderson, Virginia policy director for Appalachian Voices, says this could be an exciting opportunity, but is also hesitant.

“I think it’s a lot of questions. I think the first question that comes to mind is did anybody ask community members who live there?”

Saying now is the time to have important discussions.

“We need to start asking the tough questions of the people who are in the Coal Fields, and what they are willing to live with.”

Youngkin’s energy report says government, industry and academic partners need to work together to develop a plan to deploy the SMRs.

Source: WCYB News 5