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Dominion plans to operate small modular nuclear reactor

Gov. Youngkin talks to the media
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Gov. Glenn Youngkin gives remarks after signing SB454, which allows Dominion to seek cost recovery for early development work on small modular reactors, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia.

Youngkin signs bill enabling utility to recover development costs

Dominion Energy Virginia announced today it is accepting proposals for a first-in-the-nation small modular nuclear reactor at North Anna Power Station in Louisa County.

Standing in front of the two nuclear reactors at North Anna, Dominion President Bob Blue told a crowd of utility employees, public officials and press that Virginia has relied on nuclear power for four decades.

The first North Anna reactor went online in 1978. Today, about one-third of Virginia’s electricity comes from the reactors there and at Dominion’s Surry Power Station in Surry County.

“As Virginia's need for reliable and clean power grows, SMRs could play an equally pivotal role in our energy future,” Blue said.

Blue gives remarks
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Robert Blue, President and CEO of Dominion Energy, gives remarks before a bill signing ceremony on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia.

Dominion formally kicked off the early development of a small modular reactor Wednesday by publishing a request for proposals: It will evaluate possible reactor designs, as well as the suitability of placing one or more at North Anna by the 2030s.

The company hasn’t committed to building an SMR at that location yet.

SMRs are smaller than traditional nuclear reactors and come with smaller footprints and lower costs. They’re also new to use on the power grid; no SMRs currently deliver power to U.S. residential customers.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin said building the reactors is Virginia’s “moonshot.” In 2022, he announced a goal of having an operational SMR in Southwest Virginia within a decade. The governor walked that back earlier this year, saying other regions of the state had better sites available for development, according to Cardinal News.

Gov. Youngkin shakes hands with Sen. Marsden
Shaban Athuman
/
VPM News
Gov. Glenn Youngkin shakes hands with Sen. David Marsden, D-Fairfax, after signing SB454, which allows Dominion to seek cost recovery for early development work on small modular reactors, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Virginia.

He ceremonially signed a bill at the Wednesday event allowing Dominion to recover the costs of early development work from customers if the utility receives regulatory approval for the work.

Those costs would be capped at $1.40 per month for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in a month.

The bill drew criticism from environmental and ratepayer groups, who argued customers should not be left on the hook if no reactor is built. A planned SMR in Idaho aimed to deliver power at $55 per megawatt hour — that eventually climbed to $89 per megawatt hour, contributing to the project’s cancellation.

Youngkin said Dominion’s experience with nuclear development and other major projects — like its offshore wind farm — make the utility a good developer for this new technology. The utility projects its wind farm’s cost per megawatt hour to be $77, which is lower than the $80-$90 originally projected.

Youngkin said SMRs are part of his vision for an “all of the above” energy future in Virginia, which also includes building out wind, solar, battery storage and natural gas resources.

“It's carbon capture, it’s hydrogen, it's — of course — small modular reactors. It is all of the building blocks that Virginia and America will use to drive into the future,” Youngkin said.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Dave Marsden (D–Fairfax) said at the event that he sees the legislation as an important step in meeting Virginia Clean Economy Act goals. That state law requires Dominion to retire all carbon-emitting power stations by 2045, unless they’re needed to maintain system reliability.

“This bill goes a long way toward giving us an additional carbon-free tool to realize that goal,” Marsden said.

Marsden’s bill went into effect on July 1.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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