Energy Northwest Considers New Nuclear Power Plants

According to the Seattle Times, Energy Northwest is considering building new nuclear plants. In a May 27 letter obtained by The Associated Press, the consortium asked each of its 25 member public utilities and municipalities to pitch in $25,000 for further research into building one or more small reactors. Those who pay would have first rights to any power produced if a plant is built.

Last time the agency went down this path, it successfully built just one of five proposed plants, spawning what was then the largest municipal bond default in U.S. history. Unused cooling towers still loom over the landscape, and consumers are still paying for the project's collapse in their power bills. The fiasco forced Energy Northwest to change its name from the Washington Public Power Supply System, or WPPSS, which came to be known as "whoops."

Nuclear power already has proven to be valuable for the region, CEO Vic Parrish said in an e-mail. Recent national polls suggest the public supports nuclear energy development, he said, especially at locations where nuclear plants already exist.

Energy Northwest has spent the past year researching its nuclear options, including a 1,600-megawatt plant that would power more than 1 million homes, before deciding to gauge interest in a small project where 40-megawatt reactors such as the NuScale or Hyperion units can be added as needed.

The utility also recognizes the public relations problem new nuclear generation could pose. In the letter, vice president Jack W. Baker said public and political support would be key to any project's success.

"It can be done but it will require effort," Baker wrote.

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