Copper Valley Electric Association, located in Glennallen, Alaska is collaborating with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, headquartered in Seattle, to determine the feasibility of building the first commercial installation of a micro modular nuclear reactor energy system in Alaska. The study is designed to determine the technical feasibility, social acceptance, location, cost, and operating specifics of what is projected to be a 10 MW ‘micro facility’ utilising what is being called innovative advanced nuclear technology. If results are favourable, this will be the first deployment of a civilian microreactor in Alaska.
CVEA is an independent co-operative utility that provides electrical and heat services to more than 3800 business and residential customers in the Matanuska Valley. CVEA is dependent on liquid fossil fuels to provide 30 % of the co-operative’s annual generation requirements during most of the winter when less hydropower is available.
Although a specific site has not been chosen, the MMR is designed to be built offsite and transported for final assembly on a site roughly the size of a football field.
The USNC microreactor was designed specifically for remote applications that are difficult to support with conventional baseload or renewable power. “We want to prove to Alaskans that our technology can meet Alaska’s unique energy needs by providing reliable and clean power to small populations dispersed across vast distances, despite harsh climate, geography, and other environmental conditions,” said USNC CEO, Francesco Venneri. CVEA is an ideal utility for the MMR site as it is an islanded electric system that is on the state’s road system, which will facilitate access during construction and eventually make it easier for onsite observations, staffing, and high-speed broadband communication necessary for security and operations.
An objective of CVEA’s strategic plan is to reduce the co-operative’s reliance on liquid fossil fuels in favour of a cleaner, economic power supply while increasing energy independence. According to CVEA CEO, Travis Million, “Priorities for CVEA are to study the application of MMR technology in decarbonising the utility’s energy portfolio, increasing efficiency, lowering the cost of operations and stabilising winter rates when an increase in diesel generation would be necessary.” Getting approval for the project will be easier if the Senate passes a bill, Senate Bill 177, introduced by state governor Dunleavy on 8 February, to streamline the permitting process for micro nuclear reactors in Alaska.