By Richard Holman
Recently our community received news that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Utah Associated Municipal Power System (UAMPS) reached an agreement on a site use permit. This permit allows UAMPS to evaluate the DOE's Idaho National Laboratory site for construction of a first-of-a-kind small modular reactor. Interestingly, before the ink was even dry, the public was seeing and hearing opinions and assumptions based on incorrect information. Such an important opportunity requires an essentially different approach to fact-finding and communication.
Small Modular Reactors (SMR) are not a new concept. NuScale has been working on its design for more than a decade, which proves the point that this is not simple or easy technology. First-of-a-kind technologies face numerous hurdles that range from bureaucratic to financial, some political and many technical. It is complex business that requires skepticism, discussion, evaluation, critical thinking, and, above all else, excellent communication.
The Partnership for Science and Technology is a regional, member-funded group comprised of scientific and engineering firms, large and small businesses, community leaders, unions, environmentalists, academics and elected officials. The PST Board of Directors is heavily complemented with scientists and engineers. In light of recent events, I have established an SMR Committee to study all aspects of the SMR siting opportunity. This committee is weighted even more so with top technical talent.
This SMR Committee is charged with independently reviewing and evaluating the site use permit, the proposed technology and the potential impacts and issues associated with the project. This will involve study of the technical and other reports, project briefings and engaging in the many public processes that stand between the proposal and final construction. Our goal is simple; we want to see science and technology advanced with care, knowledge and thoughtful community engagement. This begins with considerate study and evaluation rather than conjecture and speculation.
As UAMPS and NuScale each apply for NRC licenses, we must exert competent technical awareness of the full range of opportunities, risks and issues. PST and its members will study and participate, as appropriate, to ensure the process rests on scientifically credible facts and good engineering analysis. PST's independent technical representatives from our own communities will ensure our regional interests are safely furthered.
PST does not shy away from its stated mission as a technology advocacy group, but if you have ever met a scientist or engineer, you likely know that they ask a lot of hard questions and aren't easily satisfied with simple answers. PST will dive deep, ask hard questions, evaluate real data, and participate with informed expertise. We will share what we learn with the public in straight forward, easy to understand terms. This information will be provided to all of our communities making sure the public discussion is informed and deliberative. We will also respectfully engage with those of differing opinions when it comes to nuclear solutions but we will insist on public policy decisions based on facts, science and solid engineering principles above all else. If you want to join the discussion or support this reasoned approach to citizen involvement in this important opportunity, now is an excellent time to join PST.